The family legend, which is related in the entry, Where did the name Maidenberg come from? holds that our ancestors once lived in Magdeburg, then Prussia, now Germany and over the decades moved eastward into Poland and Ukraine.
Because our family lived in the province of Podolia (Podolia Guberniya), which in 1793 was carved out of Poland by the Russian Empire, they would not have had to “move” to Russia from Poland.
See the article, “Podolia and her Jews, a brief history”
There is only sketchy information about family members who lived before Solomon and Perel, our patriarch and matriarch.
All we know come from the Letters.
Our family name shows that many years ago our grandfathers lived in the German town of Magdeburg (in some G. dialects-Meidenberg, which means Maiden or Girl’s Town). Then driven by persecutions probably they came to settle themselves with masses of other wandering Jews in Ukraine.
Thus your grandfather Solomon, the grandson of a rabbi, and your grandmother Pearl found themselves in a little Ukrainian town of Dzigovka, where they spent all their life. They had a large family of 5 daughters and 2 sons and earned their life by dealing in tobacco before the revolution, then they got old-age pension from the state.
Now I’ll try to sketch out for you our grandparent’s Shlomo (Solomon) and Pearl-Deborah Maidenberg’s progeny. The maiden-name of our grandma was Rizher. I know from my father that he had come across some documents which proved that the Maidenbergs’ ancestors came to live in Poland from the German town of Magdeburg. Then their progeny left that country and in the 18th century settled in Ukraine.
There were among our forefathers composers of religious melodies, eminent rabbis and even cabalists. I remember my father to mention his great-great grandfathers, Rabbi Ben-zion Maidenberg from Shorgorod, Rabbi Ehuda-Leib Riger [this would be on Perel’s side, with “Riger” = “Rizher”]from Jamashpol, etc. [Note: both these places are in Podolia.]
Our grandparents Solomon and Pearl spent all their lives in a small Ukrainian town called Dzigovka (Jampol District) where all their seven children were born. They earned their living by dealing in tobacco, but were held in high respect by their fellow-townsmen who came to their house for an advice or a friendly support. Grandfather Solomon was a connoisseur of the holy books and their comments. I remember his marvelous calligraphic handwriting both in Yiddish and in Russian. Grandmother Pearl was a warm-hearted, generous and very efficient woman.
It is quite impossible to restore the distant history of our family. There are not any archives which could help us in this matter. The generation of Solomon’s age died long ago and his daughters and sons, who might clarify some details, also left this world. So we must content ourselves with the information I occasionally got from my father when he was alive.
I have no idea when Solomon settled Dzigovka.
In summary, it seems our ancestors moved east from Prussia into Poland, as did so many other Jewish families. The part of Poland where they eventually settled, Podolia, became part of the Russian Empire, specifically the state of Ukraine. Jews were restricted to certain occupations, including small-time retailing (“dealing in tobacco”), money-lending and distilling of alcohol (Rosa’s family name, Vinokur, suggests this is how her forebears earned a living).