Cyril Leonoff and Irene Dodek: Starting the Oral History Program at the JHSBC
Date:Thursday, July 21, 2011
ID:Digital audio recording #: 20.11-14
JY: So my first question was basically how and why the oral history program started, why did you start it and how it began?
CL: Well I can honestly say looking back it started by chance almost. It started by chance, a chance meeting that I had with three Barish brothers who were uncles of Irene [Dodek], they were her mother’s brothers. And I became acquainted with them at the Vancouver Jewish Community Centre which at that time was the new Vancouver Jewish Community Centre, and which originated in the 60s, early 60s, and these three Barish brothers were retired farmers from Saskatchewan. And their, the family and they had spent some three quarters of the century on the, on the farm which was really the first real Jewish farm settlement on the Prairies, called the Wapella Jewish farm settlement because it was northeast of Wapella, Saskatchewan. The chance was that the oldest brother Eli Barish had seen my daughter Anita who was a pre-teenager at that time at the Jewish Community Centre among a bunch of other kids, they were visiting the Community Centre…
ID: It was a Purim carnival.
CL: …and he looked at Anita and said, “She looks like my old girlfriend on the farm but 60 years earlier, she looks like Rose Brotman,” who was my mother who were also at the Wapella farm settlement and where my mother was brought up. Well Eli had, she had been his sweetheart on the farm and her memories as a young girl were manifested in my daughter so when my wife came to pick her up they met her and confirmed that indeed she was the granddaughter of the, of Eli Barish’s girlfriend at the farm. So these brothers, there was really no recorded history of the settlement, nothing, and these brothers had such vivid memories of the pioneer life on the farm and their subsequent life as successful farmers, so I got very interested in their stories. I really felt that this was an unknown story and a story that really should be broadcast to the Jewish community in general, community, so I think the dates were 1968, 1969. I bought an old reel to reel tape recorder which wasn’t a very high fidelity and it was a big thing, very awkward and I started to interview these brothers.