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Rose’s Odyssey” is an absolutely riveting story of surviving the Holocaust that tells a story quite different from almost any other Holocaust story you might have read.



By BERNIE BELLAN In the spring of 1984, Dr. Meir Kryger (whose name is no doubt well known to many readers as the “sleep doctor” who spent many years in Winnipeg), his wife, Barbara, and daughter, Shelley, along with Meir’s mother, Rose, went to Rome where they were to spend Passover with Meir’s cousin, Henry Welch.
It was during a Passover seder in Henry’s apartment that Rose Kryger opened up – for the very first time, about what had happened to her during the Second World War. As a child of Holocaust survivors – and like so many other children of Holocaust survivors, Meir didn’t have a clue about his parents’ past, but as a child, he didn’t consider that unusual.
As Meir notes in his mother’s recently published memoir, “Rose’s Odyssey,” “I eventually learned that what is considered normal is quite different for children of Holocaust survivors. I never touched a single artifact from my family that predated the second World War. I thought that was normal. I never knew grandparents. I thought that was normal. As I was growing up every family that I knew had survived the horror of losing everything. I thought that was normal. Our family had no place it considered home, even when we were living in Montreal. I thought that was normal. Most of the adults I knew while growing up had horrible unspeakable memories locked up that were never discussed.”
Now, there have been countless memoirs and accounts of Holocaust survivors published over the years, but in many ways “Rose’s Odyssey” is unlike any other that I have ever read. In the first place, Rose, her husband Sam, sister Ghenia, and nephew Zvi (who later adopted the Anglicized name Henry), ended up traveling east from Poland to escape the Nazis, in contrast to so many other accounts of survivors who either remained trapped in Poland or managed to escape by going west.
Reading about the travails that beset those four individuals beginning in 1939 and through to 1945 is horrifying, but in a totally different way than it was for the millions of victims who didn’t manage to escape Poland.
A second aspect of “Rose’s Odyssey” that was so totally gripping is the matter of fact language that Rose uses in describing what happened to her. As it turned out, Rose had compiled a very detailed set of journals in which she described her experiences – both during and immediately after the war, along with those of her husband, sister, and young nephew.
As Meir Kryger notes in the prologue to this book, however, it was only after Rose’s death in 1993, in Montreal, that his sister and he actually discovered those notebooks, all written in Yiddish. As well, there were two audiocassettes in which Rose had also told what had happened.
Henry Welch actually translated Rose’s words and published a book in 2004 titled “Passover in Rome.” That book went out of print, but during Covid Meir reread the book and “felt the book needed to be made available again.”
Thus, after revising the original “Passover in Rome” and updating it with new maps, photos, and a glossary of Yiddish expressions, “Rose’s Odyssey” was published in 2022. It is available on Amazon as both a paperback and in Kindle format.

While the mere fact that the four individuals whose story is told in the book travelled over 18,000 kilometers from 1939-1947, which is when the story ends with Rose and Sam going to Palestine, is astonishing enough, it is reading about all the horrendous experiences they endured – yet somehow managed to survive, that makes this book so compelling to read.
In conversations with Holocaust survivors myself I’ve often asked them what it was that they think kept them going when so many others around them perished? In most cases, the answer that they would give is “luck,” and while that was certainly an ingredient in so many survivors’ stories, I often thought there was something else that had been at play.
Rose and her sister, Ghenia, were not exceptionally strong physically, and while the book also doesn’t indicate that Sam Kryger was much different from the average Polish male Jew, he was certainly capable of shouldering extreme physical challenges, it turned out.
But it was Rose and Ghenia whose abilities to endure anything thrown at them which made me write to Meir Kryger at one point when I was about halfway through reading the book, saing that I just “couldn’t put it down.” Of course, knowing that all four survived the war – even before I began to read the actual story of how they survived, told me that there wouldn’t be a shocking surprise – which might have made me hesitant to want to continue reading what is, in no uncertain terms, a true horror story.
Yet, some elements of the story related such abject descriptions of suffering that once I had finished reading certain chapters I just has to take a break from finding out yet another story about the absolute degradation that was forced upon those four individuals.
At the same time though, the book is a remarkable adventure. Traveling 18,000 kilometers – on trains, boats – leaky rafts at one point, camels at another point, and very often, simply on foot, would make anyone wonder where Rose and Ghenia, in particular, drew the strength to carry on?
From managing to survive a slave labour camp in Siberia their first winter after escaping to Poland to constantly seeking a warmer place where they might live, Rose and the others reached what must have been the nadir of their journey when they found themselves in Kazakhstan in 1941.
In a chapter titled “Worst Winter of Our Lives,” Rose describes having to deal with a typhoid epidemic that swept through the hellhole in which they found themselves, known as “Zhyd Ken Chek”:
“We were in the middle of the Kazakhistan Steppes, where the wind runs wild without any obstacles. Outside there were no trees and very scarce vegetation. The highest tree was a small bush not higher than 8 to 10 inches. That little bush dried by the wind became the only fuel we had to cook, bake and heat our kibitka. We collected these bushes and stored them in our hallway.”
In the course of the chapter, Henry Welch who, from time to time in the book, adds his own commentary to Rose’s words – sometimes to clarify certain aspects of the story, at other times to give his own perspective on something she has written, describes what happened to him in Zhyd Ken Chek:
“The minute we got into this settlement, I got sick. As my mother used to say, may she rest in peace; when it comes — it comes in bunches. I got measles. After the measles, I got pneumonia, then a horrible case of diarrhea and finally typhoid fever like everybody else. It was very unusual because I was never sick since we left our home in Lodz. I sure made up for it all at once in Zhyd Ken Chek.”
As typhoid fever swept through the settlement, however, everyone there became infected at one point or another that horrible winter.
Even as I’m writing this, I have to pause to consider what Rose wrote about that typhoid epidemic, in her typical unsentimental “just the facts” style of writing: “That winter Zhyd Ken Chek turned out to be a death trap. Of the 128 people who had arrived at the end of December 1941, only about 25 survived by the time spring of 1942 made its slow appearance. The four of us were among the survivors.”
But, as if that weren’t enough, Rose adds this note about one of the huts that had housed 45 men: “That ill-fated single men’s hut; out of 45 strong, young men, only two or three survived. The rest of them died during the typhoid epidemic. There was no medication, no medical assistance and not enough food. I would visit them from time to time and bring whatever food we had to spare.”

Returning to the question which I had posed previously: Was there something special that allowed Rose, Sam, Ghenia, and Ziv to survive when so many others didn’t? Rose herself gives no clue as to what it was that enabled those four to survive, but there is a hint that Ghenia had an exceptional ability to improvise to the point that she became a skilled black marketer in many of the outposts where they found themselves, and that proved crucial to the wellbeing of all four.
Whether it was trading various food items or other different commodities in their possession, reading about Ghenia’s resourcefulness is not only fascinating, it’s highly entertaining in many respects.
And, in the end, as gut wrenching as so many parts of “Rose’s Odyssey” are – and how could any story of surviving the Holocaust not be – it’s also a story of triumph – of taking all those blows leveled at the four individuals who faced unremitting challenges together, and persevered.
The book doesn’t end with the end of Word War II, however. Rose and Sam end up returning to Poland, where they found out that Rose’s other sister, Sally, has also survived the war. even though she had been taken to Auschwitz, as had several other of their relatives. But the Poles were decidedly unwilling to welcome Jews back into their midst, so Rose and Sam ended up making their way to Germany where, in one of the great ironies of the aftermath of the war, many Jews did find a welcome mat laid out for them.

Eventually though, Rose and Sam could simply not accept the notion that they would live their lives amidst the very people who had brought about the Holocaust in the first place. As noted, Rose’s journey ends with her and Sam emigrating to Palestine, along with their two children, Marylka, who was born during the war, and Meir, who was born in 1947. I should also mention that Rose did have another child – a girl named Gucia – in Siberia, but because there was so little food, Rose could not properly nurse the child, and she died after three months. Rose never got over the loss of that child and, while she didn’t attempt to put it out of her mind at any point, her iron will to survive led her to find the inner strength to carry on.
Again, reading out about Holocaust survivors who went from Poland to Siberia – and then to even more distant lands, never knowing when they would have to move again, and then returning to where it all began – is an engrossing story in itself. The fact that this book is so well written is a credit not only to Rose Kryger’s vivid account of horrific events, but also to Henry Welch and Meir Kryger, both of whom contributed to the editing of this absolutely compelling story.
Even though the book was self-published somehow it made its way on to the reading list of none other than Arianna Huffington, author, entrepreneur, and founder of he Huffiington Post, who was effusive in her praise of the book, writing “I love this book: it is compelling, enlightening and at times, heartbreaking.”
One final note: Meir Kryger had contacted me about this book back in August when it was first published. I told him back then that I simply didn’t have time to read it because I was quite busy putting out the paper – although I did say that I would try to find time to read it at some point. If only I had known then how good a book “Rose’s Odyssey” was; I can only hope that this review leads others to making that same discovery – sooner rather than later, as was unfortunately the case with me.

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Ron Telpner: the adman and his music



By GERRY POSNER Now this is a story. Talk about someone who has had the full package in life and you are talking about Ron Telpner. For those readers too young to remember the Telpner name, Google Gene and Fritzi Telpner (née Shuckett). Gene was a featured columnist for the the Winnipeg Tribune, the Winnipeg Free Press, and The Jewish Post & News. Anyone over 60 would likely have been aware of that.Ron is one of three Telpner offspring, a former resident of the north end, and a graduate of United College and the University of Manitoba, where he acquired degrees in English Literature and Psychology. In 1973 Ron earned a journalism degree from Carleton University in Ottawa. This was but the beginning of a long career followed by challenges far more daunting than his work.
Upon graduating, Ron took his first real job as an information officer with the Province of Manitoba. At the age of only 26 he became the Director of Promotion and Information for the Province of Manitoba. That job proved frustrating for Ron as a result of the slowness of bureaucratic goverment decision making and he soon joined the prestigious McKim Advertising firm in Winnipeg, in 1978.
One year later, he was the manager of McKim. During that time the firm was dominant in the Winnipeg adverting world. Ron created campaigns for the then Premier of Manitoba, as well as Canada’s Finance Minister, during their respective election battles. In 1989, Ron, still with McKim, by then the largest ad agency in Canada, made the big move to Toronto. The direction was clearly set for Ron Telpner.
In 1992, Telpner boldly started his own advertising agency in Toronto, known as the BrainStorm Group. Ron even brought into the partnership his senior creative director and senior account director from Winnipeg. The agency was successful to such a degree that offices were opened up in Denver – in 2003, and Dubai, in 2007. Telpner and his company worked with such leading brands as Canon, Calvin Klein, Polo Ralph Lauren, Kenneth Cole, Molson USA, Baxter’s of Scotland, Mike’s Hard Lemonade and ADP, in various countries. BrainStorm had as its main objective to be focused on inspired, integrated thinking.

All went very well until 2010 when Ron, then 60, was diagnosed with prostate cancer, which changed his life dramatically. The energy which Ron had so expended on his career was now channelled into dealing with cancer. Of course, he had the total support of his wife Patsy (Katz), also a former Winnipegger, along with his two children.
Ron decided to sell his ad agency. In the same way that he brought the best talent he could get find into his BrainStorm team, he made a plan and enlisted a team of support to deal with his cancer. He spoke with many doctors, Googled many sites, listened to different opinions and, as he puts it, “was almost overwhelmed by the information.”
That effort, together with his work in charitable areas, as well as taking an active role in men’s heath issues, combined to bring him a measure of success in his fight to deal and live with cancer. He ultimately made a major decision to have a prostatectomy. That big step seemed to have helped him.
Ron has been on many television programs , has written for various magazines and has been an MC for a variety of fund raising events. Significantly, when Ron learned that his lungs had also been adversely affected, he was told that what would help him was singing.
Now, Ron had some definite talents, but singing was a whole new challenge. Not to be deterred, he bought his very first ukulele, a Kala Travel Tenor, and taught himself to play. For several years now, Ron Telpner has both been playing the ukulele and singing along – and not just to himself. He has his own account on Instagram and anyone can both see and hear him. He is passionate about Rock & Roll, Blues, and Country and Western, so you do get a mix when you tune into Telpner. He has a large following and he says that the ukulele and singing have added years to his life. He also continues to give back every “Movember” and the 4 Doane School of Music. He is as well the co-founder of the Annual Flashmob for Peace.

Of course with all of this, you would be hard pressed to miss Ron Telpner in a crowd, as he is an admitted fashion plate with a penchant for vivid colours. So, here is my best suggestion for you to lift up your day: Search out Ron Telpner on Instagram, watch him perform in what is sure to be an outfit resplendent in multi colours. As he has done all his life, Telpner is charting a new path – and with enthusiasm.

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Jerry Seinfeld may be one of the world’s most famous comedians now, but in 1987 he didn’t win over an audience at the Rosh Pina



Jerry Seinfeld in a 1987 poster

By BERNIE BELLAN Jerry Seinfeld played at the Canada Life Centre to a large crowd on Friday evening, September 22 – and was generally well received, although I noted that there was no mention of his being here in the Free Press – either before or after his appearance.
By now we’re all quite familiar with Seinfeld’s style of “observational humour,” in which he talks about everyday matters, but notes the actual weirdness in so much of what passes for normal.
His delivery was flawless – never once stumbling over a line even as he was on stage for almost a full hour.
And, as a stand-up comic who refuses to resort to using the “f” word, which seems almost mandatory among so many comics these days, Seinfeld relies upon his ability to articulate rather than punctuate.
Still, as much as Jerry Seinfeld may be a “bit shot” these days, as Frank Costanza would have referred to him, in 1987 Seinfeld received a decidedly cool reception when he played to a mostly older audience at a Hadassah event held at the Rosh Pina.
Following is my late brother Matt’s account of Jerry Seinfeld’s appearance at a May 1987 event:
Comedian Gets Cool Response at Hadassah Event
May 14, 1987
Winnipeg Hadassah-WIZO raised more money for its network of Israeli children’s villages through the 46th annual Men’s Youth Aliyah Dinner at Rosh Pina Synagogue May 6.
But comedian Jerry Seinfeld, the featured entertainer, got a generally cool reception from the several hundred dinnergoers.
Seinfeld, 33, has appeared on the Johnny Carson and David Letterman shows, and has a gift for a certain kind of off-the-wall humor.
“Weird” material about cows running away so they won’t be turned into hamburgers for McDonald’s Restaurants, or clothes twisting together in a kinky way in the washing machine might go over with a college age audience watching a late-night TV talk show. But they didn’t work for Seinfeld at the Rosh Pina where many in the audience were decades older than 20.
He tried to tune in to the Rosh Pina crowd with a few jokes about elderly people: “My parents moved to Florida this year. They didn’t want to, but they’re in their 60s, and that’s the law.”
Seinfeld cracked another joke about his parents feeling “the thermostat is their area. I didn’t dare to touch a thermostat until I was 28 years old. “

But some in the audience muttered that they couldn’t understand his stage patter because of his heavy New York accent, and the way he slurred his words and talked quickly.
The most laughs came when somebody backstage dimmed the auditorium lights.
“Oh, we’re going show business,” Seinfeld said, sarcastically.
But the room grew dimmer and dimmer, leaving even the comedian in shadow. And he impatiently shouted offstage:
“Just leave the lights alone.”

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Remembrance of Rupertsland Avenue – 1950 to 1975



Rupertsland Avenue between McGregor and Parr as it appeared in the 1950s and how it looks today

By BRIAN M. GILFIX Cote Saint-Luc, Quebec September 18, 2023 I have read with interest in various past issues of the JP&N (Sept. 16 and 20, 2019, Sept. 30, 2020, and Nov. 10, 2021) descriptions of streets or blocks where all or most of the houses were occupied by Jewish families. (Ed. note: All those stories – about McAdam Avenue and Bredin Drive, can be found on this website. Simply go to “Search archive” and enter the name of either street. The entire issue in which the story about that street appeared will show in the search results.)

This was not all that unique in the 1950s and 60s, especially with the Jewish population of Winnipeg peaking close to 20,000 individuals during that time. During the immediate post-war years, individuals and families were leaving the Magnus and Flora Avenues with their wooden shuls and moving more northward to the then developing West Kildonan and later developing Garden City areas. This was reflected in the establishment of shuls (Rosh Pina, 1952; Bnay Abraham, 1958; Chevra Mishnayes, 1965) and schools (Talmud Torah, 1952) in the area.
Rupertsland Avenue was a new street developed in 1950 by Edward Rosenblatt. The street name obviously echoes the name given to the territory draining into Hudson’s Bay , which was called Rupert’s Land. Looking at the actual mortgage documents, houses cost about $8450 for a bungalow (1 storey) while a cottage (2 storey) cost about $2000 more. By the mid-2010s the value of a bungalow style house had increased thirty-fold in value. The street changed appearance somewhat over the years with some upgrades – paving of the back lane (1950s) and planting trees on the front boulevards (1960s).
I grew up on Rupertsland Avenue in the 1950s and 60s. Then, in the block stretching from McGregor St. to Parr St. and comprising about 50 houses, over a third of the houses were occupied by Jewish families. Most were tradespeople or small business owners. None of that generation were professionals. Then, your neighbours were also your friends with whom you socialized. For example, my parents belonged to a bridge club on the street, comprising amongst others the Stollers, Brasses, Bogaches, and Jacobsons. As few trees were planted, we, the neighbourhood children, played across the front lawns of neighbouring houses, effectively making one long field.
The children (including myself) walked to the local schools regardless of the weather: Victory, what was then known as Jefferson Junior High School, Garden City Collegiate, and Talmud Torah – affecting the school demographics such that on major Jewish holidays the public schools “shut down.”
We had deliveries from the milkman and bread man. The street was visited by vendors selling eggs and, on one occasion early on, vegetables from a horse drawn wagon.
From my memory, I have provided a list of the Jewish families that lived on the street during this period. I have also given a few short vignettes of some families as I remember it from my then youthful perspective aided by information gleaned from the JP&N and Google. I apologize for any errors in advance. I should note that of the families listed here, with rare exception, the parents have passed away. In some instances, I have noted the year of passing.
565 Rupertsland – Stoller. He was an accountant or bookkeeper. He and his wife had a son & daughter, Elaine (?).

517 Rupertsland – Name unknown.

513 Rupertsland – Kesten. Their son Cyril currently resides in Vancouver.

509 Rupertsland – Tennenhouse – Sam (d.2001) and Gertie (d.2014).
They had four children: Karen, Ronnie, Marsha, and Kenny. He farmed with his brothers during the summer and had a small machine shop in the basement in winter where he made house numbers. They were long time friends of my parents. They had a “bogey man” is their basement, actually an old coal style furnace. The oldest daughter would bang on it to make the “monster” noise to frighten the kids. They were perhaps the first family to leave Ruperstland for the then new Garden City. I believe some family members still live in Winnipeg, but the son Ronnie lives in Toronto.

505 Rupertsland – Gilfix (us) – We were Joseph (d.2014), Betty (d.2021), Debbie (Edmonton) and myself (Montreal). My parents moved to a new home on Rupertsland in 1950 from the Carmen Apartments on Burrows, which is still standing, leaving behind a walk up and ice boxes. The years saw a transition for heating the house with coal to oil to gas. My sister left for Edmonton to attend university, later married there, and has lived there since. My journey was more peripatetic, moving in 1975 to London, Ontario to pursue my PhD, followed by a post-doctoral fellowship at Harvard Medical School, and finally returning to Canada and McGill University to pursue my MD degree and specialty training. I married in Montreal and have been on staff at the Royal Victoria Hospital in Montreal since 1993. Due to age and infirmity, my parents finally left Rupertsland in 2014. I believe my parents were the last Jewish family on the block and street when they finally left.

501 Rupertsland – Dutkevich – Ann Dutkevich (d.2000), husband Nick, daughter Sally and son Joe. She was affectionately known to us as “Mrs. D”. She was very kindly. Once, when my sister decided to “run away,” she packed her bags to move to Mrs. D. next door.
I believe the children still live in Winnipeg. Their house was later purchased by another Jewish family, the Greenholtzes (daughter Faye & son Joey). He was a tailor and both he and his wife worked in the garment factories. The parents later relocated to Toronto to be closer to their children.

493 Rupertsland – Gabor. They had a son, Brian.

489 Rupertsland – Name unknown.

485 Rupertsland – Bogach – Frank and Ann, her mother, and son Howard. Frank with his brothers ran Tasty Seeds located on Alfred that they had inherited from their father. Howard was recently profiled in the JP&N (August 16, 2023).

469 Rupertsland – Bogach – Maurice & Goldie Bogach and their daughters, Mindy and Evy. The parents played bridge with my parents and he owned Tasty Seeds with his brothers. I believed their children still reside in Winnipeg.

465 Rupertsland – Rodin. One of their two sons, Greg, is a lawyer in Calgary.

461 Rupertsland – Brass – Abe and Rose Brass and their children. Following his passing she moved to Vancouver to be closer to her children, where she later passed away.

516 Rupertsland – Plosker – Max and Bertha Plosker, daughter, and son Erron. The family owned Direct Home Furniture

512 Rupertslsand – Spiller – Jack and Ailenne and their children, Harley, Susan, Sari, and Deborah. I believe some of the children still reside in Winnipeg.

508 Rupertsland – Terhoch – Kurt & Pearl. He was an electrician. They had two sons, Leonard and Marvin, and a daughter, Cheryl. The oldest son, Marvin, was at one time a producer at CBC Winnipeg.

504 Rupertsland – Jacobson – Anne, Nat (d.2002), son Gary and daughter Arlene. Nat had a part job running the projector in movie theatres. At 106 (!), Ann is probably the last living individual of the generation that first moved onto Rupertsland Avenue. She currently resides at the Simkin Centre. Gary still lives in Winnipeg.

496 Rupertsland – Chodiker. One son, William (Bill), is an allergist, now retired, who lives in London, Ontario.

476 Rupertlsmand – Golubchuk – Samuel (d.2008) and Dora and children, Percy and Miriam. I believe they were the last Jewish family to move on to Rupertsland. Samuel was at the centre of a controversial legal battle dealing with the question of who has the right to make end-of-life decisions. This case was widely written about.

468 Rupertsland – Beloffs

Lastly, at the end of the street, there was a corner store (700 McGregor) run successively by Jewish owners, Mandel and later Slutsky.
Interestingly according to my late mother, Paul Snider of Dorothy Stratton murder fame, apparently lived on Rupertsland Avenue for a period of time.
Rupertsland was not a Jewish island in West Kildonan. Immediately behind my parents’ house across the back lane on Enniskillen Avenue, there were the:
Bokauts with sons, Barrie and Brad. I remember walking back home with Barrie and his father from the Bnay Abraham synagogue on Shabbat mornings. Barrie went on to work for Foreign Affairs Canada. I believe Brad still lives in Winnipeg,
Lezacks whose son, Jack, is a hematologist in Winnipeg, and
Este and Morris Katz. Their sons, David and Philip, tragically past away at early ages.
On Smithfield, there were other Jewish families such as the Senenskys and Gorewiches (my father’s brother-in law and sister).
Over the decades the ethnic and religious composition of Rupertsland Avenue changed as the original inhabitants aged and they and their children moved to other areas. Many of the children left Winnipeg – often to Calgary, Edmonton, or Toronto. Consequently, the demographics and character not only of the street but also of the local schools, institutions, and West Kildonan have changed. On Rupertsland at its peak, probably a third as many Jews lived there alone as compared the number of Jews now living in the entire West Kildonan area (205) according to the latest census. Consequently, many of the local Jewish institutions have moved, closed, or amalgamated. When my parents, being the last Jewish family on that block of Rupertsland Avenue, finally left in 2014, it marked the end of an era for the street.

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