Tenth stop Kovno, Lithuania - home of the Millers
My paternal great grandfather, Morris Miller, came to the United States from Kovno in 1885 at the age of 15 after escaping conscription into the Tsar's army. His brother Abraham may have come with him. Morris peddled goods in the South and worked on a chicken farm in Union Hill (West Hoboken), New Jersey before settling down in Brownsville, Brooklyn. He soon sent for his mother, Dora (Celia) his brother Samuel and sister Rebecca (Mary).
Kovno, now called Kaunas, is Lithuania’s second largest city, situated at the confluence of the Nemunas and Neris rivers. The city has a number of beautiful parks, a long pedestrian-only street downtown and a lovely older district.
We went on a number of long walks and decided to visit one of the three Jewish cemeteries. As usual, the International Jewish Cemetery Project website was frustratingly unhelpful; the directions to the cemetery said only that it was “north of Ąžuolynas” park. We went there but saw no cemetery. A middle-aged man we asked for directions didn’t speak English. We then approached two twenty-something men who spoke impeccable English. They thought a bit and then gave us perfect directions to the cemetery, which was about a mile away. For the record, it is at Radvilėnų plentas and J. Basanavičiaus aleja.
While there was a gate or wall around the cemetery and an official sign with rules and regulations about its use, the place was in complete disarray. Gravestones were toppled over, grass and underbrush covered many others and trash was strewn about. Despite the disorder, it was beautiful and I felt peaceful there. People had been buried there as late as 1952 and many of the stones had epitaphs in German and Russian as well as Hebrew. I found a plastic bag and gathered as much trash as I could carry out.