Postcards from Abroad

Once upon a time I posted on my other family history blog, The Family Kalamazoo, a story about Isidore Scheshko. I am going to repost it here so that has a home where it best belongs.

The gardener’s paternal grandfather, Isidore Scheshko, was born 26 January 1887 in Odessa, Ukraine, but ended up serving the United States army in WWI (and survived the war).

A little over a month before his 27th birthday, Isidore arrived in New York City, planning to become an American citizen.

Four years later, on 23 November 1917, Isidore joined the U.S. Army and two months later was sent overseas for 13 months. His discharge information states that he was not wounded.

What the paperwork doesn’t say is that he was gassed during WWI–something that happened to a great many soldiers during that war. After that, he had a bad stutter. The only person he could speak to without stuttering was his wife, my husband’s grandmother, Celia. Originally, my research didn’t show that the long-term effects of mustard gas include neurological problems, but now I find that indeed it can cause debilitating neurological symptoms.

The gardener says that Isidore was also in the Czar’s army before he immigrated to the U.S. I think he’s a hero for joining up again so soon after coming to this country. After all, he was trying to support himself and learn English and he had a girlfriend (yes, Celia).

When I posted about this subject on the other blog, readers seemed sure that this is a U.S. Army uniform from WWI.  His legs are in puttees (thank you, Su Leslie).

 

We have a couple of postcards he sent to Celia while he was away. Here is one from 8 September 1918.

Then two months later:

Notice that he spells Celia’s name Sealie. And his own first name without the E at the end. The fine print legible underneath Isidore’s handwriting is the printed card itself, not postmark information. I don’t know where he was when this was sent, but it was in the middle of the period where he was “overseas.” It might seem surprising that after only four years in the United States, Isidore could write so well in English, but we do believe he wrote these cards himself. In fact, the gardener is sure he wrote them himself. From the first card to the second, he apparently learned that it’s “I before E except after C.”

There is no way to tell from these upbeat notes to “Sealie” that Isidore had been gassed or had, in fact, seen any “action.”

Isidore’s trade as a young man in America was a house painter, and when I think of the fumes he dealt with after he had gone through the gas in the war, it makes me wonder how he lived until 1953. But he didn’t stay a painter; within a few years, he and Celia owned a candy store in Sutton Place in Manhattan where his daughter (my husband’s aunt) went to school for a time with Anderson Cooper’s mother, Gloria Vanderbilt. That didn’t make him rich, but considering what happened during the famine and then WWII in Odessa and Tiraspol, he did well by immigrating to the United States.