We didn't know Chaya. But her name showed up on family trees done by the Latvian Archives and researcher A. Feigmanis.
I barely paid attention.
Then, My cousin Avi Lishower in Israel, who actually is related to the other side of my family, told me how the Latvian Archives had photos. So I bought copies of all of all photos relating to the Slivkin family. They cost $7 each, a great investment.
Most were passport photos. The Slivkins were decked out in their Sabbath best, smiling.
But Chaya's photo was different. She looked grim, not smiling. She looked roughed up. Her photo looked like a police mugshot.
My brother Gary and cousin Yevgeny Slivken, who now teaches Russian language and Russian lit at the U. Oklahoma and grew up in St. Petersburg, Russia, pressed me to find out more.
I asked the Archives if perhaps Chaya had been arrested. I hit the payload. It turns out she was a Communist revolutionary, who disrupted the Latvian parliament. She was arrested and spent three years in jail. I got her rap sheet prepared by the Secret Police.
But the story didn't end there. As a result of Yad Vashem records going online in Israel and some breakthroughs from records in Latvia, with Avi's help on the ground, I was able to get the full story on this family, showing how we can can leave our footprints as we march through history.
Chaya's niece in Israel, through Avi, told me that Chaya had a son in the United States, Arnold Cinman.
I found Arnold, a transplant surgeon in LA, by digging up his biography and e-mail address online.
He told me how his mom had migrated to South Africa, where he and his brother Stanley (named for Stalin) and sister had been born and grew up. He told me how his mom, who died in her 90s a few years ago, had fought apartheid and how his family sheltered an African National Party who was on the run.
Chaya also had a sister who help found a kibbutz in Israel. One of her sons was killed by a sniper during a major battle in Israel. Chaya also had a brother who survived World War II in Siberia.
I recently met Arnie in Chicago, where he was attending a medical meeting.
Here is an article I wrote on this find for a Jewish gen publication: Download Chaya.pdf
One picture can yield previously unknown relatives.