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Tobias Family (with photos)
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    Family Biographies

    Tobias

    By Rose Tobias - July 2004

    (for family photos click here)

    My Great-Grandfather, Moses Rabinowitz, was a pioneer to Rhodesia in 1986 and then President of the Bulawayo Chevra Kadisha. My Grandfather, Dr Lionel Rabinowitz Bergson, was the FIRST Jewish G.P. doctor in Rhodesia. His tombstone in the Bulawayo cemetery reads "Kind and wise physician Beloved friend of all who suffered". HE was ALSO the FOUNDER of the Revisionist movement in Rhodesia AND when Jabotinsky visited in 1938, Jabotinsky stayed in my grandfather's home on Wilson Street! He married Rose Krenski - she was a concert pianist - I have a review of a concert of hers from the Bulawayo Chronicle - she died in 1939. My father was a farmer, an engineer and an industrial gunniter. He played violin in the Bulawayo Symphony Orchestra. I once played solo piano accompanied by the Bulawayo Symphony Orchestra - I was 12 years old. My brothers were good athletes - Lionel broke the Rhodesian high jump records through the late 60s and early 70s and held those records for 3 years till my next brother, Brian, came along and broke those records and held them for many years - as far as I recall up to Under 16 and I think Under 18. My mother was the Social Worker for Housing and Administration Mpopoma. I have many documents of reference about them, magazine articles, invitations to my mother to attend high level Commonwealth, British Empire and Royal functions. And many photos, and university degrees from Moses Rabinowitz onwards. We are also connected to the Ellenbogen family - they were my mother's half-brothers.

    Moses Rabinowitz is listed in the Bulawayo cemetery list and under his name
    is Rabinowitz, Mrs - she was my great-grandmother, Moses' wife, Batsheva nee
    Bloch.

    Here are my farm memories:

    Matabeleland: Lonely Mine, Inyati, Turk Mine, Bulawayo

    I am weeping as I write this - I was telling a friend just over the weekend
    about the Farmer's Union - our fathers would discuss the farming issues, we
    would be playing, the mothers would be talking Women's Institute, and the
    real joy of Guy Fawkes on a rotation at a different farm each November and
    (just 2 Jewish families and 2 farming Jewish brothers, the Berwitzes in the
    area) so we all enjoyed the Christmas parties at the Farmer's U hall, Turk
    Mine cricket matches with my father hitting 6s like mad, making 36 off 10
    balls and going out quickly, playing doctor with Roger and Stephen Williams,
    and Stephen became a doctor! And I dated Roger briefly at UCT in 1970, when
    we met up after a gap of 12 years.

    Cattle auctions and braais at different farms where we kids would be
    relegated to a bedroom, and would have the greatest fun - apparently, one
    evening I found the farmwife's make-up and accordingly decorated all the
    girls, and on one farm (Harold and Lucy Barry), we (10 or 12 of us) would be
    tucked into one very large double bed in the "blue" bedroom, and would NEVER
    sleep, not for fun but we never knew why till I visited that farm again with
    my family when I was 20, and Mrs Barry said that the original farmwife had
    slowly died of cancer in the blue bedroom and it was reputed that she was
    still in that room - and that's why we never slept! And I could find those
    other friends, I guess to corroborate that - but at the end of that visit,
    we left at sunset, about 5.45 pm, and as we slowed down at the gate to go
    over the cattle grid, a woman leaned in through the front window of the car,
    and wished us "Good evening, and a safe journey." NO-ONE WAS THERE OUTSIDE THE CAR. But all 5 of us clearly heard her. When we got back home to Bulawayo, my mother phoned Lucy Barry to tell her, and Lucy said that that
    first farmwife had always walked in the front garden at sunset.

    DO you know the FIRST murder of a farmer took place in 1959, 2 farms from us
    - at Lonely Mine / Inyati, Huntsman WIlliams was murdered. What followed was
    Harold Macmillan's "Winds of change" speech, Uhuru, the riots in Bulawayo,
    the horror of the Belgian Congo (where we also lost a very dear friend who
    we'd met at the Vic Falls one year of the MANY times there). And he was shot
    in the back 8 times while delivering milk, and who by?? The UNITED STINKING NATIONS, not a Congolese. We took in a Belgian refugee family - how dreadful for them - no English, forced to flee their lives with nothing, Henriette and Luc were the kids. I have the thank you letter that came from them when they were safely back in Belguim. And our other farming friends who have
    been murdered, who were on "lists", Tony Ellman-Brown, Jewish Mark Sommers, to name just two.

    But it was also a bizarre area: apart from murders, my father's best friend,
    John Merry, died agonizingly of cancer, and the family had to sell up and
    move into Bulawayo. On our one neighbouring farm, Charles Mennell
    accidentally shot his father, Bill, dead, pulling the rifle from the back
    seat of the car. Charles's mother, Elsie, remarried the richest farmer in
    the area, Meyers, and they emigrated to a sheep station in Oz, where Charles
    was out with a cousin shooting rabbits one afternoon. Charles was driving
    the tractor, the cousin was behind. The cousin shouted "There's one!".
    Charles stood up to look and simultaneously the cousin pulled the trigger ..
    and killed Charles. There were 2 real ballerinas in the area: the one,
    Rosemary Levin, was in a car accident and paralysed for life.Happily, her
    daughter, Sally, lives in Israel! The other was Robyn Gilmour who was
    married to ROBIN Gilmour! Charles and Avril Landry were driving to the Vic
    Falls one night and at the very place on the road (you remember) where the
    roadsign warning "Elephants" stands, they, in their Mini, drove right
    between the legs of a jumbo straddling the road! Avril was pregnant - she
    lost her baby but they did survive that. Across the road to our farm was
    Braemar, a farm owned by Lonrho, and who was the manager there for a while?
    Angus Ogilvie (Princess Alexandra's husband)!

    And the day someone came running from the Berwitz's farm to say that the
    Berwitz brothers were "in town" for the day, and that an old woman had been
    bitten by a snake. My father grabbed the snakebite serum tin, I jumped into
    the vanette with him and the worker and off we raced. The whole farm
    population had gathered to witness the saga. The farmhouse was actually a
    huge barn - real bachelor pad - my father took her in, made her lift her
    skirts, pull down her pants and bend over, gave her a shot in the backside,
    then sat her on a cushioned chair, sterilised his penknife in flame, and
    slit where the bite had occurred on the upper side of her hand. The whole
    crowd had gathered inside. She was lucky, that old woman -

    SLO-O-Ow poison - I will never forget, where he slit the flesh just above
    her wrist, this black mucous wriggled out in a thick zigzaggy coil from her
    hand, and the farm people all raised their voices in jubilation!! I remember
    my father working out how long it had taken the farmworker to run the 10
    miles to our farmhouse and the bumpy van ride on dirt roads and strip road
    to the other farm. But she lived to a ripe old age, that one!

    I remember teas with the missionary family at Inyati Mission Station - Rev.
    and Mrs Mary Shaw, descendants of the originals in Africa, Robert and Mary
    Moffat. How frugally they lived. They had one painting on the wall and it
    always fascinated me as a child - a woman smoking a pipe.

    What a rich childhood. I forgot that I'd always planned on marrying a farmer
    too. I took my children there in 1997 - charming family on the farm which
    had been subdivided. Their baby burst into tears at the sight of our faces -
    I think we were the first "white" faces she had ever seen!

    I hope I haven't depressed you. I got a ride home with my roommate at work
    and my last words to her as I got out of the car were cursing Robert Mugabe
    AND the hypocrisy of the EU and UN which respects power before human rights.

    My Uncle, Montague Ellenbogen, represented Southern Rhodesia at Queen Elizabeth II's coronation in 1952. He was seated inn Westminster Abbey. His daughter, Carol Ellenbogen, was chosen for the Olympic Bisley team in 1968 and we were then kicked out of the Olympics so she never got there. My brothers held the Rhodesian high jump Under 18 record for at least 10 years between the two of them.

      

     


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