1929, February 15: Eve Adams, Warsaw, to Ben, Anna and Brutus Reitman
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Eve's first letter to Reitman (the addressees are Reitman, Anna, his wife and the mother of their son, Brutus, born 1917):
My dearest friend Ben Anna & Brutus
I recollect this is the month when dear little Brutus has his birthday and I must miss it as I miss many more things and friends. I dreamed last night I was back in America What horrors in the awakening!
Although a little late, but I want to at first wish little Brutus a happy birthday and many more to come! He must be a big boy now -- and driving the Ford or perhaps a Studebaker by now!
I am in Warsaw one month now - The cold and hunger drove me out of the Free State of Danzig - the winter was too terrible there-- I have a job here as "governess" a little girl 5 years old. Time taught me patience. I am making a good governess, for I naturally love children. I get Room board laundry and 50 Polish zlotys per month equals = $5.50
Five dollars & help per month and the price of a concert here or to a good theatre ticket is 1/10 of a month's salary -- The working time is when the baby wakes before seven a.m. and she is asleep at eight. And then I am too tired or too poor to go somewhere. Have no friends here - I feel a total stranger in my own county and in addition handicapped, became I am
a Jewess -- in Poland there are distinct two races -- Christians & Jews are they don't mix.
In all the world, a foreigner and in the country I was born a Jew.
The job reminds of the workhouse [on Welfare Island (now Roosevelt Island), where Eve was imprisoned] except that the door is not locked. What a future, what a life!
I was dreaming of coming back to the US illegally thru Canada, but I read in the newspapers, that when a foreigner is caught now who entered the states illegally get only not deported but two years jail time, i.e., if he is caught entering for the second time. Well it scared me a bit - 2 years jail, but to tell the truth if I had the chance -- When you dear Ben [o chance (?)] sent me that $25.00 last year I did not have a passport, but I secured one now in Danzig. That is why I remained there all that time--
With the coming of spring and this is my only hope dream that I can take the international train here in Warsaw that leaves direct for Paris -- and that means thirty dollars (fare & visa etc.) Can I save that much on my job? O perhaps five!
Could I ask ou dear friend again to raise that small sum for me among friends? -- I know how busy you are all there and how far away I am from you all and that makes you forget -- I am wondering whether you all escaped the influenza which was raging in Chicago and New York according to the newspapers, but I do hope and trust you people are all well.--
And how is my beloved friend Violet Dixon [a Chicago artist]? I could never forget her. O, God how I long for one of your friendly faces. How lonely I felt all this year in this land!-
How many times I felt to end it all would be best! What a price I paid for my courage and perhaps foolishness! And still paying if I have to live a life as such I lived until now in Poland & Danzig -- I heard one concert during all year - a Mozart & Beethoven 6th symphony program -- How starved I am for music -- things beautiful in life and all nearly during the year my every day worry was for a piece of bread. -And now when I have the piece of bread
I have to give all my time for it - 14 hours each day and in the evening I am not supposed to go out. - I do sometimes, but if I do too often that may mean losing the bread too. -- shelter-- and it is such a cold bitter winter here. Siberian weather. For two weeks a shortage of coal-- and living is so high according to the earnings.--
I have written to you my dear beloved friends several times -twice or three times from Danzig but got no reply - Do not forget me again.
-A word from America from friends gives me hope & courage - and could you help me again? O, how I hate to ask, but there is no way out -- I cannot steal and I am a stranger-Jew here to be able to manage to earn a little more money and then labor is terribly underpaid in all branches. Life here is only for the very few, the rich and the Christian -- and a Jew cannot get any decent job here, because
he is a Jew --
May I trust I hope to hear from you real soon? Dear Anna & Dear Ben & Dear Violet you too please write to me a few words. --
My heart is free when I think of you people to lose them perhaps for ever.
Ben I remember you wrote me last year that I will have yet lots of fun in Europe -- well not much fun up till now -- Perhaps the sun will shine again. I carry a little 10 [cent] Edition of Tennyson with me my bible and those few lines kept me alive: "Have faith, have faith!
We live by faith, (over)
And all things move together
For the good." (Sea Dreams[)]
Or this sad thing:
The present is the vassal
Of the past:
So that, in that I have lived, do I live. (The lovers tale [Eve's annotation, with missing last parenthesis].
I shall close for the present with best wishes to all and all my love
Mail everything will reach me safest and promptly forwarded by my mother to the following address & town:
W.P. [Mrs.] M. ZLOCZEWER
MLAWA - POLAND
Eve Adams to Ben, Anna, and Brutus Reitman, from Warsaw, Poland, February 15, 1929, six pages. Signed “Eve Adams” with return address W.P. [Mrs.] M. Zloczewer, MLAWA – POLAND, Dizaldoska 19. This letter was somewhere in the Ben Lewis Reitman Papers, Archives, University of Illinois, Chicago, Library. A careful researcher hired by Jonathan Ned Katz, Marie K. Rowley, was unable to find this letter in the University of Illinois Archives after the Archives was, at some point, reorganized. Martha Lynn Reis sent scans and a transcription of this letter to Eran Zahavy who shared them with Katz. In her excellent thesis, Hidden Histories, Ben Reitman and the "Outcast" Women Behind Sister of the Road, The Autobiography of Box-Car Bertha (University of Michigan, 2000), Martha Lynn Reis listed this letter as in the Reitman Papers, series 3, box 9, folder 151, but that location is now inaccurate.
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