Tuesday, 16 April 2019

The Sokolov - Rusoff love letters

© 2019, Christian Cassidy

I love a good history mystery and saw one on CTV Winnipeg the other night. A cache of century old love letters found during construction at the Paris Building.

Much of the mystery was essentially solved in the story, but I thought I would dig back and see what more I could find.

The stash were wartime love letters from Hymen Sokoloff to Rebecca Rusoff. At the time, she was a stenographer in Winnipeg and he was a Tribune reporter serving overseas. When they first met is not known. Both were very involved in national Jewish organizations, which likely caused their paths to cross.

Sokolov went on to become a lawyer and from about 1935 to 1938 his firm, Sokolov and Co., was located in an office on the fifth floor of the Paris Building. What prompted him to bring the 20-year old letters there and how they got sealed into the staircase will likely never be known.

I'd like to think that this attention is the very reason Sokoloff put the letters where he did.

Here's a bit more about our love birds:

Rebecca Rusoff was born in Pavolich, Russia ca. 1899 to Samuel and Hennie Rusoff and brought to Winnipeg as a young child. She had three brothers and a sister.

The first mention of the family in the Henderson Directory comes in 1912 operating a small grocery store from their home at 40 Grove Street. (They may have come earlier but hadn't anglicized their name yet.)

According to street directories, the Rusoffs moved around a great deal and Samuel held various jobs.

In 1913, they are living at 44 Grove, also operating a store. By 1914, they are living at 254 Stella with Samuel working as a labourer with the CPR. In 1916, they were at 360 Church Street. Beckie is listed independently in the 1916 guide as a stenographer, though no place of work is given.

From 1917 - 1919, around the time the letters were written, the family was living at 264 Burrows Avenue. Rebecca worked at Rogers Shinier, a tobacco wholesaler at 925 Main Street.

In 1920, the family moved once more to 340 Alfred Avenue.

Hennie was now the head of the household as Samuel left to spend two and a half years in Mandatory Palestine building a Jewish homeland. He bought 2,000 acres of land near Halfa for settlement by 50 Western Canadian Jewish families. He returned to Winnipeg in June 1922.

As for Rebecca, in 1921 - 22, she worked as a stenographer and bookkeeper at Famous Players Film Service, first at their office on 445 Main Street. When Famous Players bought the assets of the defunct Allen Theatre chain in 1923, she was moved to the Allen Theatre, (now the Metropolitan), on Donald Street.

On August 24, 1922, Rebecca married Hyman Sokolofski (Sokolov).

Hyman Sokolofski (Sokolov) was born in Russia circa 1898. He went to elementary school in London, England and St. John's High School in Winnipeg.

Sokolov was a law courts reporter and editorial board member of the Winnipeg Tribune until World War I. He served in the Egyptian Expeditionary Force in Palestine as a non-commissioned officer with the 49th battalion of the Royal Fusiliers.

After the war, he returned to Winnipeg and the Tribune until 1921, when he resigned to attend law school at the University of Manitoba. He graduated in 1923, not long after he and Rebecca were wed.

Source: Manitoba Vital Statistics

The couple had three children David, Judith and Sheila.

Rebecca was a long-time executive member of a number of national Jewish organizations, including the National Council of Jewish Women. She was a recipient of the Centennial medal for community service in 1967 and died in 1968.

Hyman had a long and productive law career. He was made Queen's Counsel in 1959 and his son eventually joined him in practice. He died in 1976.

Here are their respective obituaries:

April 19, 1968, Winnipeg Tribune

October 23, 1976, Winnipeg Tribune

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