In April 2019, Samuel Wolfman and his wife Dorit, from Tel Aviv, visited the POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews. After the viewing the core exhibition, they decided to go to the Resource Center, in order to learn more about the Białystok Jewish community. Talking with the Center’s staff member, Krzysztof Bielawski, Samuel Wolfman explained that his family from his maternal side, Pesia née Menkes, came from there. “You are related to the Menkes family from Białystok?”, confirmed Krzysztof. “You absolutely must meet Joanna Fikus, the manager of our Exhibitions Department!”.  

Bialystok during the pre-war period.

Joanna Fikus recalls, “I was riding my bicycle home from work, when Krzysztof Bielawski called me. He confirmed with me that my great-grandfather’s surname was Menkes and that he was born in Białystok. He explained that he had been talking with visitors from Israel and that they could very well be related to me. With whatever strength was left in my legs, I cycled back to POLIN. At the Resource Center, we spoke together in English. They were very nice people, very sincere. Immediately, we began drawing together what we knew about which Menkes. It was great.  

When I told my mother about this meeting, she became emotional. For years, she had endeavoured, unsuccessfully, to make contact with someone from that part of the family”.  

Jakow Dow Menkes and Mindle Menkes

Samuel and Joanna exchanged a great deal of information but, to that point, they were unable to confirm that they had a common ancestor. The team at the Resource Center, comprising Krzysztof Bielawski, Maciej Wzorek and Anna Styczyńska, are currently working on creating a Menkes family tree. 

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