The identity card of Leon Ilel

The identity card of Leon Ilel

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This is the identity card of my father Leon Ilel issued in Vidin in 1931. It says that he is an Israelite by religion and a Jew by nationality. There's a physical description of him and under 'occupation' it says - manufacturer. I remember my father with very little hair. He had a short haircut. His hair was a bit grayish. Even when he died at 72 years of age, he did not have white hair. He didn't have a hair prosthesis. He said it bothered him. He wore a suit. He always wore a suit; I don't remember if he had any cardigans. He wore pants, a shirt and a jacket. In the summer I don't remember seeing him without his jacket, wearing a shirt only. He also wore a bowler hat. When it got cold, he wore a fur-lined short coat. In the winter he wore overshoes, because there was a lot of mud around. I had to wash them, but the water in the bucket would freeze during the night. In the morning, he would take a wooden log and hit the ice in the bucket to crush it. And he said, 'Come now, wash yourself!' The ground in Vidin is kind of sticky, not crumbling. It stuck to the overshoes and you can't image how hard it was to wash two pairs of overshoes with freezing hands. I remember him as a vendor of charcoal. Village people came from the country and brought him charcoal. All villagers around Vidin were Wallachians [ethnic Romanians]. There was no Bulgarian village around Vidin without Wallachians living in it. I remember him coming home all black. He went to the shop, two people helped him there, holding one side of the charcoal sack and placing its other side on the scales. The scales worked with weights. When he returned home, my mother was ready to pour him water to wash himself. There wasn't much water at that time. We didn't have water in the yard, my mother and I went to a well, which was two houses down the road. We called it Tatli Bunar - which means 'sweet well' in Turkish. Its water was very nice. So she would pour my father water so he could wash himself. I would hand him a clean shirt and a towel. My father was responsible for our moral upbringing. I don't know how many brothers he had, I know that he had a lot of cousins. He didn't go to school. As a child, he worked as a servant. He knew very little: to sign his name in Latin letters and to use some Jewish alphabet, consisting of pothooks. He had a big notebook for the accounts. He was a naturally intelligent man, able to understand and learn much about people. He knew a lot of short stories and proverbs. He was very eloquent and everyone loved listening to him.
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Interviewee

Adela Hinkova