Fonds RA016 - Alexander and Gina Dimant fonds

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Alexander and Gina Dimant fonds

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  • Textual record
  • Photographic material
  • Object

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Fonds

Reference code

CA VHEC RA016

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Issuing jurisdiction and denomination (philatelic)

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Date(s)

  • [1920?]–2019 (Creation)
    Creator
    Dimant family

Physical description area

Physical description

11.7 cm of textual records
4 postcards
71 photographs : prints ; black and white, colour
7 coins
2 bank notes
2 thimbles : silver, glass
1 pane (20 postage stamps)

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Name of creator

Biographical history

The Dimants were a Jewish family from Warsaw, Poland. Alexander Dimant (birth name Szaja Dymant, b. September 17, 1922, in Warsaw, Poland, d. March 9, 1998 in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada) was born to Izrael Dymant and Fajga Szrajbaum. Alexander, who was also known as Sasha and Aleksander, had three siblings: Nahama Goldman (birth name Chumcia Dymant), Jakub Dymant and Szlomo Dymant. The Dimants lived on Miła Street in Warsaw’s Jewish Quarter until 1937.

Shortly after the Germans invaded Poland in September 1939, Alexander and his friend Leon walked from Warsaw to Brest-Litovsk (now Brest, Belarus), where the Red Army was accepting refugees into the Soviet Union. From there, they moved to Białystok, where Alexander pursued a factory school apprenticeship. In 1941, he went to Makhachkala, the present-day capital of the Republic of Dagestan, Russia. There, he was reunited with his brother, Jakub. In the spring of 1941, Jakub was accused of anti-Soviet agitation and imprisoned. Alexander did not see him again until 1946, when Jakub was released.

Alexander was mobilized into the labour army in 1942, working on oil pipeline construction alongside many other refugees between Astrakhan and Stalingrad, now Volgograd, Russia. Labeled by Soviet authorities “unreliable” for fleeing Poland after the German invasion, he was sent to build a bypass channel from the Baydayevka River, in the region of Kabardino-Balkariya. After the Second World War, in 1946, he was allowed to leave the USSR and went to Szczecin, Poland. His entire immediate family except for his brother Jakub perished in the Holocaust.

Gina Dimant, also known as Longina (birth name Hinda Wejgsman, b. January 11, 1926, in Warsaw, Poland) was born to Abram Wejgsman and Dora Grinblat. She had a younger sister, Lina Wejgsman (b. January 2, 1937 in Warsaw, Poland; d. June 10, 2016, in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada), who worked many years as a radio announcer in Szczecin before moving to Canada.

In September 1939, the Wejgsman family left their home in Pelcowizna, a suburb of Warsaw. They went to the Soviet border by train and by foot, staying for a time in Biešankovičy, Belarus. At the border of the USSR, the guards registered Hinda’s name as Gina.
In December 1939, the family was transported to Leningorsk, now Ridder, Kazakhstan. The journey took six weeks, and the family arrived in January 1940. In Leningorsk, Gina worked at the brick factory, the timber mill and finally in the cinema of the local House of Culture. She married Jan (surname unknown), a Polish Jewish hairdresser, in January 1946 and shortly after returned to Poland. Crossing the Polish border, Gina’s name was changed to Longina, because the name Gina did not appear in the official Polish list of first names. Jan and Gina settled in Szczecin. Their son, Saul Seweryn Dimant, also known as Salek, was born February 1, 1947. Gina and Jan divorced in 1948.

Gina met Alexander at the Jewish Centre in Szczecin and the two married in 1952. Alexander graduated with a Master of Economics from the Economics Department of the Polytechnic in Szczecin and worked as Director of Retail Trade in the municipal government. Gina worked in health care. In 1968 Salek was arrested after attending an anti-government meeting at Szczecin University. Around this time, tensions were growing between the Polish government and Polish Jews, and the Dimant family left Poland in September 1969. They stayed in Vienna, Austria, and then in Rome, Italy, for almost one year, supported by the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee. Alexander and Gina immigrated to Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, in August 1970. In Vancouver, Alexander opened an accounting firm and Gina worked in the Finance Department of the University of British Columbia from 1973 to retirement. Salek followed his parents in 1971 and worked as a taxi driver and businessman.

Salek married Rosalie Neuwirth (b. March 27, 1950, Vancouver; d. May 20, 2016, in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada) in Vancouver in 1974. Their two children are Henry “Dov” Dimant and Sally Dimant.

Gina and Alexander became actively involved with Holocaust remembrance activities in Vancouver. In 1993 Alexander traveled to Poland to participate in the fiftieth anniversary of the Warsaw ghetto uprising. In 1996, he was involved in preparations for The Warsaw Ghetto: A Pictorial Remembrance exhibition at the VHEC (April 18 to June 7, 1996).
Gina is on the board of directors of the Janusz Korczak Association of Canada. On May 3, 2013, she was awarded the Order of Merit of the Republic of Poland for her efforts in strengthening cordial relationships between Poles and Jews.

Alexander died March 9, 1998, in Vancouver. Saul died May 1, 2002 in Vancouver. Gina lives in Vancouver.

Custodial history

Scope and content

Fonds is comprised of correspondence, photographs, identity and personal documents, society registration documents, minutes, clippings, memorabilia and ephemera created or collected by Alexander and Gina Dimant in Poland, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR), Italy and Canada. Records pertain to their family history, work, school, and social and volunteer activities prior to and after the Second World War.

Records have been arranged into the following series: Correspondence (1941–2019), Photographs ([1920?]–[2016], Personal records (1938–2013), Artefacts (1940–[before 1948], 1997), Clippings and ephemera ([after 1942]–2016) and Janusz Korczak Association of Canada records (2001–2008).

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Physical condition

Immediate source of acquisition

Currency was purchased by Alexander Dimant in Warsaw after the war and donated to the VHEC. Some photographs were kept by an uncle of Alexander’s who fled Europe to Cairo, and eventually returned them to the Dimants in Vancouver. Textual records, artefacts and photographs were kept by Gina and Alexander Dimant until Alexander’s death in 1998, after which they were in the sole custody of Gina Dimant. Records were donated to the VHEC in several accessions in 1996, 2000, 2002, 2014, 2018 and 2019.

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Accruals were processed together. No further accruals are expected.

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Partial

Dates of creation, revision and deletion

Finding aid prepared by Lorenzo Camerini in November 2018. Revised in February 2019 by Shyla Seller and in April, 2019 by Lorenzo Camerini, and in August, 2019 with changes requested by Gina Dimant.

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