From the relative comfort of an aeron© chair in the womb-like safety of an NDSU computer lab, it never ceases to amaze how much field work can be accomplished. This past week has been reassuring on that score.
The question of Gabriel Spat’s identity—to the world and to himself as well—continues to engage me. Aside from some required but depressing readings on the Chișinău pogroms of 1903 and 1905, there are only a few outstanding questions as I prepare to sit down and outline an article about Spat, who was not nearly as elusive as his on-line presence might suggest. I’m relatively confident that Spat and Numa Patlagean were, in fact, brothers two years apart in age. Internet sources on Patlagean offer tidbits of background from the Moldovan years, prior to his emigration to Paris. [Here, by the way, the pogroms of 1903 and 1905 would appear to almost literally be “the smoking gun” that drove him and Gabriel from their homeland.] Numa’s (or Naum or Nahum, take your pick) family are rumored to have owned a cement factory in Moldova’s capital city, which at that time supported about 125,000 residents, half of whom were Jewish. In the ’05 pogrom, Gersh (also Hersh) Patlazhan was blinded but survived, and the boys soon afterward lit out for greater security, acceptance and creative outlet in western Europe.
Attempting to answer a few last questions [Did Gabriel attend the local art academy as his brother had done? Can I confirm the family’s trials and tribulations during the pogrom?], I sent two emails last week to library/archival sources in Moldova. With apologies for addressing them in English, it seemed wisest to keep the questions brief, uncomplicated. And by the weekend I knew that at least one of those inquiries had hit its mark: the stats page on this blog recorded three hits from Moldova! Two days later came a reply (equally apologetic for the language barrier, the artifice that gets in the way so often) accompanied by several attachments—including, of all things, my own blog pages on the Patlajan/Spat saga. And the following day, another hit from the Ukraine. What must these people think?
So today, on the third anniversary of its founding, I humbly add blog entry #380.