Since the 1880s, Jewish immigrants from Russia and Eastern Europe have come to the East End of London to build new lives away from the poverty and persecutions of their homelands. In this feature two Jewish East Enders talk about their origins and their lives from Romania to Bethnal Green. Anna Tzelniker acted in the East End Yiddish theatre for over 50 years. Her father was an itinerant actor originally from Poland who immigrated to England in the middle of the last century. Meyer Bogdanski originally came from Poland after the war, where he fought for the allies. He has lived in the East End ever since and worked as a tailor.
"I'll start by telling you my name. I am Anna Tzelniker and I am an actress. Although I am semi-retired now, I am still an actress and I will be until the day I die and hopefully I will die with my boots on. As they say in the theatre world, on stage--which is every actor's wish. I was born in Romania although my parents were not from Romania originally. My mother was from Bassarabia and my father was from Poland. In the First World War my father was in the Russian army and he left the army after being wounded and he joined up with a Yiddish theatre company and went touring Russia during the First World War and revolution and he met my mother. They were married and after the revolution, the authorities wanted everyone to join the party. My father didn't want that and he was made to feel very uncomfortable. By that time, my mother's family had left Russia and gone back to their origins, which was Romania then. My father decided that we would do the same and this involved smuggling themselves across the river to Romania. My mother was pregnant by then and so I was born in Romania. It was an accident that she was there. Just as by accident I have a brother who was born here in Leeds in England..."
Anna Tzelniker recounts her life from Romania to the East End of London.
"I came here to Britain in September 1946. I was then in the Polish army and this was called the 2nd Polish Corps and this corps was an integral part of the British army. We became part of the British army in April 1942. In 1939, you may know, the war broke out by German armies overriding Poland from the west and a few days later the Soviet armies overrode Poland from the East. I was mobilised to the Polish army before the war began and the unit in which I served found itself in that land which the Soviet army annexed. For a time we were in the so-called gulags and in 1941 the Germans attacked them. They were forced by sheer necessity to free us and they allowed us, as we were prisoners of war, to become an army again. This came after an agreement the Soviet government concluded with the British government here because they needed help very badly..."
Meyer Bogdanski talks about his life from Poland to London.
The London School of Economics and Political Science.