Memorial Celebration of the life of TANYA WINTER

Saturday, March 22 2014
2:00 PM to 5:00 PM

Brethern Sanctuary
3850 Westgate Place
San Diego, CA 92105

(Jan. 8, 1927 - Feb. 9, 2014)

Join us in celebrating the life of TANYA WINTER, in her decades long dedication to peace and justice.

RSVP please to MIA WINTER:
or call Mia at 858 386-3678 .

Tanja Winter -- San Diego Hero For Our Time

by Frank Gormlie on March 2, 2011

in Environment, History, Organizing, Popular, San Diego

When Tanja Winter – the matriarch of San Diego’s progressive community – was 12 years old, she watched as German Nazis troops rolled into Prague where she lived, in what was then Czechoslovakia. It was 1939 and she was coming home from school. She vividly recalls that awful scene to this day – all the adults were standing around weeping.

Over seven decades later, I'm sitting in her living room in La Jolla Shores, getting her to tell me more of her story. I’ve known Tanja for decades but never knew the details of her growing up or her earlier life on the East Coast with her soul-mate, Bernie, who passed away a quarter of a century ago.

Tanja Winter has been a mainstay among San Diego’s progressives for decades, unrivaled – despite her size and gray – in focus, energy, and stamina. For many of us who were active in this City back in the 80′s and 90′s, she was the main elder of the tribe, always there with her quick political analysis, always ready to coach the rest of us, leading by example. She never sat still for very long, and was constantly pushing the younger activists who surrounded her.

Tanya’s name has been synonymous with “activism” here in San Diego for a quarter of a century. She would be at ever rally, demonstration, picket – and for every progressive cause, from anti-nukes, friendship with the Chinese, Central American solidarity, labor, Palestine, environmental issues, against all the wars – really she was a true internationalist and activist extraordinaire .

Tanja was born in Paris in 1927 to Russian parents, Alexander and Sylvia Jelsky. As her father was a film producer, they moved around Europe a lot. From Paris to Berlin, and then Berlin to Prague…. Her mother Sylvia was an acculturated woman, with artistic talents who spoke many languages. They spoke Russian at home, but Tanja learned German and Czech in school. When she speaks today there is absolutely no trace of any accent – except a New York one. This was all a surprise to me, as I had assumed Tanja was one of those east-coast Jewish intellectuals and party veterans. That balloon popped right away. I had no idea that she had been born in Europe.

She and her parents – she was an only child – were Jewish, but as Tanja explained, “I was a cultural Jew, never religious.” What happened, I asked. ”It’s a long story,” she answered.

Like the rest of Europe, Tanja was deeply affected by what was happening on the continent. After the Germans took Prague, her parents decided that she and her mother should get out. Fortunately and ironically, her mom had been briefly married to an American, and thus had an American passport with Tanja’s name on it. Unfortunately, her father had none.

Tanja and her mother grabbed a boat to France, and made their way to New York, and then to Newark, New Jersey. Alexander, her father, was not so lucky. He never made it out of Prague. For six long years, Tanja and her mother waited for some kind of news about him – they had nothing to go on during all that time, despite Sylvia’s searches. Long last, they 'ound out that her father had been picked up by the Nazis, and as he was an able-bodied male, he’d been sent to a work camp – and of course he never made it out.

READ MORE from the OB RAG, by Frank Gormlie

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