The brothers were both of medium height with “wheat-coloured” faces and grey-blue eyes. They hailed from Kalkandelen (as the town was known in the Ottoman Empire) and came to Jerusalem to create flour mills and bakeries—and families.
Two unexpected snapshots of sorts, taken in 1905-1906, have added colour and detail to the picture I’ve been building over the years about these two brothers and their families. The younger brother was my great-great-grandfather George Schtakleff; the other, his brother Zacharia.
~ In Memoriam: John Thorogood (1933-2022) ~
*Note: Since its initial publication, this post has been edited at the request of a family member who wishes to remain private.
On a hot summer afternoon in London I made my way to the Thorogoods. A few months earlier, their eldest daughter, Cathie, who lives in Australia, had discovered this blog and my connection to her grandmother’s family – the Gaitanopoulos – and suggested I visit her parents next time I passed through town. I dropped them a line when I was planning a stopover and they invited me over without hesitation.
Before succumbing to the juggernaut of consumerism, the Christmas season was filled with the smells of baked goods wafting from home ovens. None evokes Christmas more vividly in my mind than the spicy, rich aroma of Yiayia Vitsa’s German Biscuits. (Biscuits in Brit speak, cookies in American lingo.)
When you write a story and publish it for the world to read, the story is then set free to follow its own journey. If you’re lucky, you can tag along for the ride and be richer for it. And sometimes the story comes back to you, asking more of you.
On the 70th anniversary of the January 1948 bombing of the Semiramis Hotel in Katamon, Jerusalem, by the Haganah, the Jewish militia, I published a blog post about the incident. Not only was it a story I had grown up with but also a milestone for the neighbourhood of Katamon. Katamon was the place my mother and her family – her parents and two sisters – called home until it was no longer so and they found themselves as refugees in Cyprus. The end of their lives in their neighbourhood began, as I wrote in that initial post, with the explosion at Villa Semiramis, two doors down from their home. And it was the beginning of the end for Katamon itself for it caused its residents, like my own family, to abandon the neighbourhood in search of safety elsewhere.
My post travelled as far as Spain to the screen of the nephew of one of the victims of the explosion. Last year it was also discovered by a young woman from Gaza who is related to another victim.
Those two encounters in cyberspace looped me back into the story, this time causing me to dig deeper and farther.
A few weeks ago Dorit Naaman and myself were interviewed on the Jerusalem Unplugged podcast, “the only podcast dedicated to Jerusalem, its history and its people.” It kicked off in late January and is hosted by Dr Roberto Mazza, an academic whose focus is the history of Ottoman Palestine. He is also the new editor of the Jerusalem Quarterly (which, however, is not related to the podcast).