He is my grandfather. His Russian passport reads Hyman Osband. It is 1907, the year he has chosen to leave Riga and the Baltic behind and make his way to America and a new life. A good time for a young man to renounce the Czar, and escape the promise of conscription in the Czar’s Army.

He will remember his time as an apprentice in St. Petersburg, learning the art and trade of house painting and gold-leaf lettering. He will recall that horse drawn sleighs are the only way to get around in winter.

Transport in DonetskDonetsk in the 1900sA_horse-drawn_sleigh_outside_a_house,_Hughesovka,_about_1900

Trinity Bridge in St. Petersburg

Trinity Bridge in St. Petersburg over frozen Neva River © 2013 Daniel Korzeniewski Photography

His talent for mixing colors and applying them will serve him well. His name appears on the manifest of the ship Campania which departs from the port of Liverpool. He will establish his painting and decorating business in Rochester, NY, and saving most of his first earnings he will send for his future wife Merle and his brothers and pay their passage to America.



Pages from my grandfather’s passport

He will work in many homes, some of them mansions on East Avenue. Women will show him a square inch of fabric and ask him to paint the interior in a color that matches. And he will.