James and Eugenia Zilboorg papers
Scope and Contents
The James and Eugenia Zilboorg Papers document the experience of a middle class Jewish family in Kyiv that emigrates to the United States, Mexico and Palestine. The papers consist of family correspondence, business correspondence, other personal papers, photographs and printed material documenting the life of James and Eugenia Zilboorg and their families. The two largest groups of letters are between James and Eugenia Zilboorg and between the Zilboorgs and the Gel'fman family.
Letters between James and Eugenia Zilboorg document their life together including the details of their emigration from Kyiv and the management of their family affairs. James often traveled on business and many of his letters were written during these travels. The letters are addressed not only to Eugenia, but to their daughters and to Eugenia's sister Vera and mother.
Letters between the Zilboorgs and the Gel'fman family document the details of the lives of Gel'fman and Zilboorg family members. They provide details about the families' struggle to thrive during and after the Russian revolutionary period, emigrate, and begin new lives abroad. The families strove to maintain a daily intimacy through their correspondence and their letters provide a personal record of the Jewish emigration experience in the early twentieth century. They also include details of the various businesses that the Gel'fman family managed.
In addition to these two large groups of correspondence, there are letters from other family members and friends, including the Zil'burg family of Kyiv. Of particular interest is James' early correspondence with his brother Gregory. Gregory struggled to continue his education during the Revolution and in 1917 served as secretary to the Minister of Labor in the governments of Georgii L'vov and Aleksandr Kerenskii.
Besides correspondence, the collection contains one box of printed material related to revolutionary Russian politics (1898-1927) and one box of other papers which include family photographs, ephemera and collected documents relating to revolutionary Russian politics.
- Majority of material found within 1898 - 1972
Language of Materials
Primarily in Russian and English. Some letters are in German, Spanish and Yiddish.
Conditions Governing Access
The materials are open for research.
Conditions Governing Use
The James and Eugenia Zilboorg Papers is the physical property of the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University. Literary rights, including copyright, belong to the authors or their legal heirs and assigns. For further information, consult the appropriate curator.
Immediate Source of Acquisition
Gift of Natalie Fiess, 1992.
May 2016 Acquisition: Gift of Olga Zilboorg, 2016.
The collection is organized into four series: I. Correspondence, circa 1910-1972. II. Other Papers, 1898-1968. III. Printed Material, 1899-1923. IV. May 2016 acquisition, 1913-2015.
6.22 Linear Feet (11 boxes)
The James and Eugenia Zilboorg Papers consist of family correspondence, business correspondence, other personal papers, photographs and printed material documenting the life of James and Eugenia Zilboorg and their families. The two largest groups of letters are between James and Eugenia Zilboorg and between the Zilboorgs and the Gel'fman family. In addition to these two large groups of correspondence, there are letters from other family members and friends, including the Zil'burg family of Kyiv. Of particular interest is James' early correspondence with his brother Gregory Zilboorg, who served as a Minister in the governments of Aleksandr Kerenskii and Georgii L'vov before emigrating to the United States and becoming a psychoanalyst and historian of psychiatry.
The collection also contains one box of printed material related to revolutionary Russian politics (1898-1927) and one box of other papers which include family photographs, ephemera and collected documents relating to revolutionary Russian politics.
James and Eugenia Zilboorg
James Zilboorg was born Jakov Movshevich Zil'burg in Kyiv, September 3, 1892. Eugenia Zilboorg was born Evgenia Minaevna Gel'fman in Kyiv in the 1890s. James emigrated to the U.S. in 1914 and Eugenia followed in 1915. They became American citizens but lived for many years in Mexico. Several of James and Eugenia's family members also emigrated from Kyiv, going to Denmark, France, Danzig, Palestine, New York and joining them in Mexico.
The Gel'fman name is also spelled Gelfman, Helfman and Helfmann. The Zil'burg name is Americanized as Zilboorg.
In 1914 James began a lifelong career in engineering working for Westinghouse Corporation in Pittsburgh. He later worked for their international subsidary in Mexico and for other international and Mexican companies in the electrical power industry. In 1961 James retired and the couple moved to Long Island, where James died in 1968.
Menashe Khaimovich Gel'fman, Eugenia's father, ran export and trade businesses in Kyiv and Danzig, dealing in such products as flour, sugar, tobacco and wine. Eugenia's siblings include Minia (who emigrated to France and married a woman named Evgenia), Emma Andersen (who emigrated to Denmark and married Kai Andersen), IUzia (who emigrated to Haifa, Palestine and eventually to New York and married a woman named Hilda), Sofia Spektareva (who remained in Russia and worked in education), Vera (who lived with the Zilboorgs in Mexico before marrying Oleg Saitcevitsky) and Liza.
James's parents, Moshe M. Zil'burg and wife, also emigrated to Mexico and lived in Mexico City. Siblings of James include Esther Levitas (who emigrated to Mexico and married Solomon Levitas), Gregory (who emigrated to New York and became a notable scholar of psychoanalysis) and Basia Osherov. For further details about the life and work of Gregory Zilboorg, readers may consult the Gregory Zilboorg Papers, YCAL MSS 258.
James and Eugenia Zilboorg had three daughters: Natalie Fiess, Olga Irvine and Lydia Cato.
- Emigration and immigration -- Mexico
- Emigration and immigration -- Russia
- Emigration and immigration -- Ukraine
- Gel'fman family
- Jewish diaspora
- Soviet Union -- History -- Revolution, 1917-1921
- Zil'burg family
- Zilboorg, Eugenia, 1894-1973
- Zilboorg, Gregory, 1890-1959
- Zilboorg, James, 1892-1968
- Guide to the James and Eugenia Zilboorg Papers
- by Lisa Conathan, Lucretia Baskin
- 2007. Revised: April 2023
- Description rules
- Describing Archives: A Content Standard
- Language of description note
- Finding aid written in English.
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