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Maurice Wolff - Ki Lo Na’eh Ki Lo Ya’eh

Chad Gadya
Ki Lo Na’eh
Ki Lo Ya’eh

Maurice Wolff“I was born in Glasgow almost 89 years ago. My father was born in Riga. He came to Greenock first and then to Glasgow when he was in his twenties. His real name was Max (Mordechai) Ishcovitz but his step-uncle sent him a ticket and his own name, which was Wolff, was on the ticket - and that’s how my father came to be called Wolff!

He came on his own. His family had moved to Tallinn, the capital of Estonia, but it was overrun by the Russians; some of the family were sent to Siberia and some to the Russian labour camps. Although that saved their lives as the two of my relations who remained behind, a boy of 18 and a cousin in his early thirties, were shot by the Germans. That was very sad.

Most of the family survived Siberia except for my father’s brother who got ill. The family begged the Russians to let him come home and they so put him on a train but in the cold Siberian conditions he took ill and passed away.

When my father came here he knew of some cousins in Greenock outside Glasgow and he came to them first. My father was a credit draper; he sold stuff, mostly to gentiles on credit and people paid him back in instalments. That’s what most Jewish people who came to Glasgow did in those days when they had no trade.

He met my mother here in Glasgow. She came from Vulkamir, a very frum part of Lithuania. Her father came first and then the rest of the family - four boys and four girls. My bubba used to shout at my grandfather if he didn’t bring a stranger home for dinner on Shabbes. Although they were eight in the family he still managed to do this.

My parents got married at South Portland Street schul - they had a small grocery shop opposite and I was born in 1919. I wanted to study medicine. I applied and was accepted. It was easy in those days as there was a shortage of doctors but when the papers arrived to sign they couldn’t afford to send me. But I stayed at school until my fifth year and got my highers but there was no money to send me to university. So I did various things and ended up in property - which was the best thing in those days! My wife worked in my grandfather’s grocery shop. She comes from London but her family came from Vilna. Unfortunately we don’t have any children.

By the way, Ishcovitz was a very well known name in Tallinn. They had a factory of 450 workers and used to help us a bit financially. I always said that one day I’d pay them back. In 1945, even though I was only earning about £4 a week, I was able to send £6 and a couple of parcels to relations who had founded a kibbutz in Israel and they sent it on to my aunt in the labour camps. I met this aunt for the first time in 1961 when I went to Tallinn. She told me in Yiddish that I’d saved her life. I got a lot of satisfaction from that.”

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