Friday, January 2, 2015

The Drowning in Rozentova

I discovered this tragic accident while reading a very old newspaper. In a rural area like this, some of the local elders may still remember the drowning disaster that happened in the village 118 years ago. 

Detail from Ophelia by John Everett Millais, 1852

The wedding was a celebration to be remembered. Members of both families had gathered from afar to witness the young Kasriel Grinmann and his bride Rivka Weinstock united in matrimony. The ceremony took place in the small village of Rozentova [Malta, Lithuania], west of Rēzekne, on August 21, 1897. The bride was from Preiļi and the groom came from Višķi, two small villages lying thirty kilometers apart.

After the ceremony, a stroll and a picnic in a nearby grove had been planned for the younger guests. Small wooden fishing boats had been hired beforehand for a short rowing trip down the Vertukšnes river and were waiting at the riverbank. The day was balmy and the guests were lighthearted.

It was youthful folly that lead no less than ten young men and women to board the boat carrying the newlyweds. They hadn't made it past sixty feet before the vessel flipped in the current and cast its dozen passengers into the water. Within seconds the scene turned into a tragedy: Few of the guests could swim, fully clothed and likely intoxicated as they were. Two women managed to cling to the upside-down boat and were carried away by the stream, screaming for help. The groom and another guest barely made it to the riverbank. One man was saved by a soldier who bravely dove into the water and pulled him out. The rest of the passengers were swallowed by the murky river.

Five bodies were recovered later that day and buried in Rēzekne. The bride and her brother had drowned, as well as the brother's pregnant wife. The missing bodies were only found two days later and laid to rest in the Jewish cemetery. The whole of Rēzekne went into deep mourning, and many local Christians partook in the funeral. The widowed Kasriel Grinmann remarried years later. He was killed along with his wife in the holocaust.

The seven victims:
Sara Malka Pitak, 25 from Preiļi. Daughter of Mendel Pitak.
Rivka Grinman née Weinstock, 25 from Višķi. Daughter of Zerah Weinstock. [The bride]
Hanna Tserfat, 21 from Ludza - daughter of Behr Tserfat.
Sara Dobe Weinstock née ?, 27 from Višķi - daughter of Efraim ?. [Sister-in-law of the bride]
Yehosha Shalom Weinstock, 27 from Višķi - son of Zerah Weinstock. [Brother of the bride]
Moshe Michal Cohen, 22 from Preiļi - son of Yakov Hirsch Cohen.
Yakov Sorokin, 20 from Rēzekne - son of Kasriel Sorokin

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