Usher had High Hopes
By J. Kott-Wolle
Oil on Canvas, 30x30, painted 2019
Original photograph taken - 1972
Usher was my father’s uncle. He never married or had children. Usher arrived in Canada with my grandfather, my dad and my aunt Sylvia in 1949 after they survived the Holocaust. The four of them were sponsored and taken in by their brother Avrum who had moved to Montreal in 1929. Avrum was fortunate because he avoided the danger and uncertainty of life under Nazi rule and became materially successful by opening a dress factory.
When the three siblings reunited, it was awkward to say the least. Two brothers suffered greatly during the Holocaust while the other was comfortable enough to buy a new Pontiac. Usher felt personally insulted when my dad, only 16 years old, was handed a broom on his first day in Canada and told to sweep the floors of the dress factory. Actually, Usher was livid and it marked the beginning of a lifetime of ‘broyges’ (Yiddish for keeping a grudge) with that side of the family. In my father’s memoirs he describes that moment:
‘This outburst of indignation at his brother was like an opening scene in a play by Tennessee Williams…Usher must have figured out that there was not going to be manna falling from the sky and sweeping his brother’s floors was the proverbial straw that shattered his dream of how it would be. The next day we moved into a nice 2nd story flat on Jeanne Mance Street at the N/W corner of St. Viateur…”
One can only imagine the pride Usher must have felt on the day my father graduated from law school. Usher died in 1973. He had terrible scars on his body from the time when the Ukrainian police (under direction of the Nazis) beat him with a bicycle chain.