A picture tells a thousand stories

Rona, aged 5, dressed as a tomato (front row, right) at the Woodstock Jewish Nursery School’s Purim Party in 1939. Her sister, Myra, aged 2, is in front at the left

By Editor

Visiting one of our readers recently, I was left wondering about how we today will leave a legacy to future generations. With so much being online (or just on one device) these days, the record of celebrations; of our homes, our food, our pets; and so on could well be lost by the time our great-grandchildren become adults. Contrast this to days gone by when photo albums adorned our bookshelves, keeping the memory of past days alive.

The reader I visited, Rona Friedman, a resident of Devils Peak in Cape Town, wanted to share the photographs that tell a story about her late father, Sam Savitz, who came to South Africa from Lithuania. Beginning with Sam at 18 years of age, we learn that he spent the first five years of adulthood in horrendous conditions while conscripted into the Russian Army. 

Sam subsequently made his way to South Africa, where he joined his older brother, Mottel, who had come to the country earlier on. Mottel’s daughter, Lily Savitz, became well known in music circles. 

“My father left Lithuania because of antisemitism and the lack of economic opportunities,” Rona recalls. “It turned out to be the best thing he could have done because of 13 siblings, only he and two others survived – the others stayed in Lithuania and perished during the Holocaust.”

Sam and Mottel opened a food store in Hanover Street, District Six. They took orders for foods such as smoked fish and eggs, and they had a horse and cart to do the deliveries to their customers. At a later stage, Sam opened SS Stores in Observatory. 

Rona’s mother came to South Africa in 1920 as a small child. Her mother travelled here from Lithuania after her husband died in the 1918 flu epidemic. She married Rona’s father in 1933 in the Muizenberg Shul, and the reception was held at the Rio Grande Hotel in Muizenberg.

Rona Friedman reflects on her family history

If you’ve got old pictures from the past, you should record the history they tell. It’s all part of our heritage.

• Published in the April 2024 issue – Click here to start reading.

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