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Rozalia: Fairy Great-Grandmother

This Women’s History Month, we are putting a spotlight on a very important woman: Rose Bell, born Rozalia Belsky. 
 
Rozalia Belsky is the matriarch of our own Rachael Z Miller whose strength and fortitude brought herself and her toddling daughter out of a fraught pre-World War II Eastern Europe (Russia at the time, now part of Ukraine). 

At a time when Jewish citizens were being persecuted, Rozalia’s husband, Jack, left for the New World of the United States of America to make money for his family to make the journey after him. Rozalia and their daughter, Anna, left their homeland in 1922 with their hearts set on America and reuniting with Jack.

Rozalia Bell Belsky, Rachael Z Miller, family timeline photos

Four generations of women: Great-grandmother (Bubbe) Rozalia, Grandma (Bubbe) Anne, mother Barbara, and little Rachael Z Miller.

map of Balta Ukraine where the Belsky family left for the New World

The homeland of Rozalia, Jack, and Anna Belsky in then-Russia and now Ukraine.

In a horrible turn of events, Rozalia and Anna were caught in a steamship ticket scam and were only able to make it as far as Constantinople, their tickets on to the US no better than scraps of paper. Rozalia protected her two-year-old daughter for months in the tumultuous big city, while Jack scraped together the resources to purchase new tickets. Finally, they boarded the S.S. Madonna bound for Ellis Island in New York City and a new life in Philadelphia. 

Entry papers for Rozalia and Anne into Constantinople

S.S. Madonna steamship that brought many refugees, including Rozalia and Anne, to Ellis Island and the New World.
A photo of the S.S. Madonna, the passenger ship that carried Rozalia, Anna, and innumerable refugees to the New World.

The S.S. Madonna manifest of passengers including Rozalia and Anna Belsky sailing from Constantinople to New York City.

The S.S. Madonna manifest of passengers including Rozalia and Anna Belsky sailing from Constantinople to New York City.

A certificate issued in recognition of Rozalia and Anna Belsky passing through Ellis Island

A certificate issued in recognition of Rozalia and Anna Belsky passing through Ellis Island, “joining those courageous men and women who came to this country in search of personal freedom, economic opportunity and a future of hope for their families.”

Reunited as a family, Rozalia, Jack and Anna settled down in Philadelphia where Jack had found work in a candy shop (Rachael credits her sweet tooth to this detail of family history)

naturalization certificate for Rozalia Belsky, aka Rose Bell.

In 1941, Rozalia became a citizen of the United States of America at the age of 45. When immigrating, her name was altered into Rose and the family name of Belsky became Bell.

Rozalia and Anne Belsky

Rozalia was a beloved mother, wife, and grandmother to her family (and people from other families). She passed away before Rachael’s birth, but in a stroke of fate, Rachael was born on the second anniversary of Rozalia’s death. Rozalia is known to the family as Rachael’s fairy great-grandmother and Rachael’s mom chose her name using the “R” from Rozalia. In turn, Rachael named her marine debris nonprofit, Rozalia Project, in honor of all that Rozalia accomplished and stood for in her lifetime. 

We invite you to take this time to remember the women in your life who have fought and sacrificed to raise up the future for you, their family, friends, and community. We see countless women who are working to make sweeping changes for the betterment of the people and planet. Every one of us will be part of history one day, so thank you for being part of the environmental revolution with us!