Rediscovering Ukraine: American-Jew Connects with Roots
Stuart Linder's great-great-grandfather and great-grandfather fled persecution in the Chernivtsi region in the mid-20th century
“I love this because you see that this man wears a nice suit,” Stuart Linder said, showing a picture of his great-grandfather, Maurice Linder. “He looks like a very successful person. And you wouldn’t realize that he came from nothing.”
Stuart Linder’s great-grandfather came to New York when he was 10-years-old.
In the face of anti-Semitism, Stuart Linder’s great-great-grandfather fled the Austro-Hungarian Bukovina province – which now belongs to Ukraine, taking Stuart Linder’s great-grandfather with him.
“My great-grandfather Maurice moved from what is now Chernivtsi province. It’s the second largest city in Chernivtsi, called Strozhynets. He moved when he was 10-years-old. He was born in 1894 and he spoke Yiddish, actually,” Stuart Linder said.
The 100 percent Jewish man, however, had a German last name.
“It’s Linder, which comes from the linden tree. That’s interesting because he and his family used to own lumber yard. So, that’s what I get my name from,” he said.
It’s been 3-and-a-half years now since his name and bloodline brought Linder to Ukraine.
“I was about 30 years old and I was working in San Francisco, not loving my job. And I was on vacation in Georgia. And I was flying through Ukraine and I said, ‘I just need to be here.’ In three month, I quit my job in San Francisco and I found this job,” Linder said.
Now, Linder works at “The Right to Protection,” a Charitable Foundation that helps refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs).
“He wrote us at some point, asking whether he can volunteer – if he could provide some kind of, let’s say, help, to the organization. We decided, ‘OK, why not?’ Now, he’s an extremely experienced fund raiser and adviser on many strategic issues,” Director of “Right to Protection” Oleksandr Galkin said.
Currently, over 1.5 million IDPs are registered in Ukraine. And most of them, according to Linder, are elderly people. Thankful for the legal help provided, they often drop by with gifts.
“Even though I’m not a Christian, I appreciate – I’m very happy that I have this icon of Jesus,” Linder said, showing one of the gifts that he had received.
Help should go beyond borders, race, and religion, Linder said.