The Gonif — wayward son in the Crimean war

The Gonif — wayward son in the Crimean war

They say the apple doesn’t fall too far from the tree, but this crab apple landed in a whole different district.

According to Ruby family lore, the Kovno Rav indeed had another son, separate and distinct from those mentioned above, whose name has lamentably been forgotten, but whom we have nicknamed here as the Gonif (the thief). According to the story told by Walter Ruby to his son Stanley, the Gonif ended up almost 1000 miles from cool northern Kovno in the gorgeously wild, rugged and semi-tropical Crimean Peninsula, where he moved as a very young man, probably because a good opportunity for money making had opened up, namely the Crimean War of 1854-56.

The Crimean War began when the British, French and Turks invaded Crimea in order to prevent the Russian navy based in the Crimean port of Sevastopol from using that port as a base to attack Constantinople, directly across the Black Sea. Unfortunately for the allies, the war soon turned into a misbegotten mess of trenches and mud, with the British and French stymied in their efforts to capture Sevastopol, and losing tens of thousands of men to typhus, syphilis and other diseases.

The war is mainly remembered today as the scene where Florence Nightingale earned her wings as an angel of mercy. The Gonif also sought to seize his chance in Crimea; in his case to make big money while betraying the Russian homeland he no doubt despised for its persecution of Jews, by selling horses and loose women to the British.

Business was said to have been going great guns, but, alas, the Gonif was apprehended by the Russian Army and promptly hung. Like a lot of other people, he probably thought the Russians would quickly collapse before the might of the Western armies, forgetting the painful lesson Napoleon learned 40 years earlier and Hitler would learn in the next century; namely that the Russians always fight hardest when their own land is invaded.