Monday, March 9, 2009

Partisans, Chiam and Leather






I have lived in the same place for 20 years..right in the heart of the "Schmata" district in Toronto. While I came and went from my home base, one of my constants was Chaim. 16 years day in and day out Chaim would greet me with a growl and an insult in Yiddish, Azerbaijani, Serbo-Croatian, Polish or one of a gazillion languages he spoke. He called me "Reb Kalef" or Rabbi Dog in English. Chaim came from a village in Poland near to my Grandfather..when the Nazis moved in and started slaughtering Jews, 16 year old Chaim grabbed his father's gun with two of his brothers and fled into the forest. He joined a desperate group of Jewish partisans grabbing food where they could and slowly made his way through Poland, Belorussia, Uzbekistan, eventually ending up in Cyprus, Israel and then Canada. Chaim was one cranky tough little bastard.
Chaim taught me a lot about the clothing business. I learned things I didn't get a chance to learn from my Grandfather who died the year I was born. I was thinking of Chiam when I went to see Defiance starring my wife's favorite actor Daniel Craig. I enjoyed the film in spite of its "classic Hollywood" foibles and obvious sentimentality, but as per usual was much disappointed with the leather. This was a 50-50 split as Craig's jacket while aged to look super old was designed completely off kilter for a period jacket, from the zippers, to the collar, back yolk, and other bits (I think I saw stretchy banding and leather on the back typical of a 1950s jacket). Liev's jacket on the other hand was very authentic for the period. Partisans would have been wearing Russian or German leather from the prewar period basically 1915 to about 1940. I did some research and came up with some actual pictures some of the troop in the movie. In actuality there were over 1200 people living in a makeshift village in the Polish forest, they even had their own leather shop and tannery, imagine that! I miss being yelled at by Chaim everyday...