Monday, 20 March 2017
Something Is Always Missing: Podolia / Podilia 1917 -21
Something is always missing. If you try to reconstruct the postal history of a place or period, there will always be gaps. Only some archives have survived. Some got burnt, some got bombed, some fell into the hands of stamp dealers who soaked the stamps off. Sometimes, you end up with a very unrepresentative picture of what went on in the post offices of some place at some time.
I have accumulated material from the Podolia / Podilia government of Ukraine over many years. Most of the material is concentrated in the 1917 – 21 period. I have a lot of Money Transfer Forms and Parcel Cards, the things you most often see. My assumption is that when the government of the Ukrainian Republic moved into exile through Podilia, they took the post office archives with them. A great deal ended up in the well-documented collection of Eugene Vyrovyj before 1939.
Then I have Registered letters addressed to Kamenetz Podolsk court which have appeared much more recently on the market. After that, there is very little in the collection.
Private correspondence is remarkably scarce. I don’t think this reflects a high level of illiteracy. I think it just means that during the Holodomor of the 1930s and the Holocaust of the second world war, a great deal was destroyed, sometimes simply burnt for fuel or used as cigarette paper.
Then there are the Remittances from the USA. Migrants to the USA, mostly Jewish, sent money back to Imperial Russia. The Advice cards for these money transfers are common, usually with the addresses for the Russo Asiatic Bank in Petrograd and M.I.Blitzstein and Co in Philadelphia. These cards can be found up to and including the period of the Provisional Government in 1917 but then they stop and do not resume until 1923/ 24 when the Russian Commercial Bank in Moscow now sends out the advice cards. Here it seems likely not that cards from the 1917 – 23 period were destroyed,but that there was no service available.
Railway cancellations in the 1917 – 21 period are rarities. In the 1918 period of Austro-German occupation, this may be explained by the use of railways for military purposes. After that, there was no period of stability in which railway post offices could resume normal service. But here was surely some railway post in the 1917 -21 period. But the most I can show is one General Issue stamp with a ZHMERINKA VOKSAL cancel for 30 10 18.
Podolia / Podilia had a large, literate Jewish population, living in the many small towns which cover the map of Podilia with dots. Their names can be found on Money Transfers and Parcel Cards. But as part of the general lack of personal correspondence, there is simply no surviving Jewish correspondence whether written in Yiddish or in a Roman or Cyrillic script which shows that it is written by someone more familiar with Hebrew script. But when you get into the 1920s, some Jewish correspondence re-appears, but not sent locally. It is mail going abroad to the USA or to Dr Brender in Berlin and so escaped whatever happened to local correspondence in the 1930s and 1940s.