1890 – Sam Bonar: Born in Kishinev (Кишинёв), Bessarabia, Imperial Russia

Sam Bonar Photo

Shliomo Reuven ‘Sam’ Bonar during his Australian years

Sam and his immediate family members

Sam: Shliomo-Ruvin Bonar / Shloimo-Reuven Bonar born 1890

Brother: Volf / Volodia Bonarski /Velvl Bonar born 1894

Half-sister: Mollie Megalnick. Died Dec. 30, 1929 of breast / lung cancer: lived in LA 25 years (from 1904)

Mollie’s father: Modechai Megalnick

Mollie married Motl/Maurice Goldfarb, b. Sept. 10, 1879

Father: Nuhim-Leib /Nukhim-Leyb Bonar

Paternal Grandfather: Moise Bonar/Moishe/Moshe

Mother: Lea/Leya Fier Levi Mosco

Maternal Grandfather: Moshco/Moshko/Moshe

Sam’s 1st wife: Tsivya ‘Sylvia’ Block

Their child: Jacob ‘Jackie’ Bonar

Sam’s 2nd wife: Masza Sztajnman /Margie Steinman

Their child: Donald ‘Don’ Bonar

Mollie and Maurice’s child:

Mrs. Lester Simon in Chicago

Her children: Betty Carroll (Simon) & Earl Stanley (Simon)

The story of the Bonar Family begins with Samuel ‘Sam’ Bonar, whose surname is shared among its core members. Samuel Bonar was born Shliomo Reuven Bonar on May 22, 1890 in the city of Kishinev (Chișinău) located in the province of Bessarabia in the colony of New Russia, Imperial Russia.

Sam Bernhardt-Bonar.jpg

A portrait of Sam Bonar made in Los Angeles.

A copy of Sam Bonar’s birth certificate translated in Sam’s hand from Romanian into English is included in a corpus of paperwork, which covers the years 1919-21. This extensive series was obtained by Charles Lehrer from the Australian National Archives.

Sam’s translation of 1920 informed the Australian officials that his father, a soldier and widower, was Nuhim-Leib Bonar (died February 24, 1913 in Kishinev) and that his mother, a daughter of one Levi Moshco Fier, was Lea Fier, the widow of one Yavit Megalnik

Nuhim-Leib Bonar married Lea Fier in 1884.

Sam’s paternal grandfather was Moyshe Bonar. According to Sam, the Russian equivalent of the Bonar surname is Bonarsky. Later on he was to write that the Romanian equivalent is Bernhardt.

According to Sam’s 2nd wife Masza ‘Margie’ Sztajnman, he also used the surname Bernacki (Bernatski).

New Discoveries_0220

Nuchim Leib Bonar, Sam’s father.

New Discoveries_0221

Stamp of the studio in Kishinev (Кишинёв) on the back of the above photograph.

New Discoveries_0218

Lea Fier, Sam’s mother, with his brother, Volf. Lea was the widow of one Yavit Megalnick, the former of whom whom Nuchim Leib, also a widower, married in 1884. The name of the town where Lea Feir lived, Kishinev (Кишинёв) is seen in Cyrillic at the bottom-right.


The location of Kishinev (Chișinău) in New Russia, a colony of Imperial Russia, where the Bonar Family lived in the late 19th-early 20th Centuries. New Russia was originally known as Bessarabia, and had been annexed by Imperial Russia from the Ottoman Empire during the Russo-Turkish War of 1787-1792. During the 19th century, impoverished Jewish families from the northern sections of the Russia’s Pale of Permanent Jewish Settlement were transferred to New Russia by the Imperial Russian government in order that they might develop new farming techniques. Such techniques would eventually prove essential to the Jews of New Russia who emigrated into the Ottoman province of Palestine.

Records from Bessarabia indicate that Sam’s younger brother, Volf, was born in Kishinev in 1894.

Birth Records of Sam Bonar and his brother Wolf

Birth Records of Sam Bonar and his brother Volf


Birth Certificated of Sam Bonar. This copy is a translation into Romanian, apparently made by a Romanian official in 1920 at Sam Bonar’s request, from the original in Hebrew and Russian.


Translation in Sam’s hand of his Birth Certificate from Romanian into English. Australian National Archives. November 30, 1920.


On November 10, 1939 Sam, as part of his naturalization,  gave up his many names and settled on Samuel Bonar. Over the years he had made use  the following epithets:

Shliomo Ruven Bonar (birth name)

Samuel Bernacki (pronounced Bernatski)

Samuel Banarski

Samuel Bonarski

Samuel Bernhardt

Samuel ‘Sam’ Bonar





Wolf Bonarski


 Translation by Boris Dralyuk:

As a keepsake to my dear brother, Shlyomo (Sam) Bonarski…

MAY 14, 1916

from your dear brother, Volodia (Wolf) Bonarski

[The stamp on the photograph tells us it was taken at a

studio in Kishinev.

The postcard below was sent to Sam Bonar by his brother Volf during the era encompassing World War I, the Bolshevik Revolution, and the contemporary Polish-Bolshevik War of 1917-1921. The Bolshevik Revolution in Russia pitted the Red Army against the White Army, so one can only imagine the confusion for men like Volf who had to choose sides. All the more so, Australia where Sam was living at this time (actually from 1910-1923), supported and sent troops to fight with the Russian White Army.


Volf Bonarski


Message in Yiddish on the back of the photo above. There are two copies of this card in the family collection: this one is marked N-1, the other: 2.

Translation of copy N-1 by Hershl Hartman:

My dear sister and brother-in-law and [superscript] brother. I implore you to see to it as far as possible, I beg you to get us out of Russia so that I might no longer have to serve fonye [Yiddish disparaging term for “Ivan,” meaning the government]. With us it is very rotten here in Russia. One wanders about with hardly any work. If I have serve someone, [i.e., one of the contending armies in the Russian Civil War] things will be still worse for Mother if I leave. May the One Above give you strength to rescue me.

[In address space] I have no other news to write to you. Remain well and happy, from me, your brother, who wishes you good fortune and good things, and that we may see each other. [No signature.]

The letter below with the same photo, was sent to Mollie, Maurice, and Sam (Shloyme) from Kishinev by Volf (Volodia) Bonarski). It would appear from Volf’s subtle comment regarding the daily saying of Kaddish, that Sam was not religious.

New Discoveries_0216

Message labeled ‘2’ found on the back of a 2nd copy of the photo of Volf Bonarski

Translation of copy 2 by Hershl Hartman:


From me your brother, Velvl Bonarski. This card is for you and Motl. Send a reply card quickly.


I send greetings to my dear brother-in-law and my dear sister and my dear brother, Shloyme. And may you live and be well and to see me and I to see you in the best of circumstances.

My dear brother, I ask that you write to me whether you say kaddish or not. When you write me a letter you should send me a complete address. Aunt Basye-Rokhl, and Motl and Masi send you greetings from their deepest hearts.

Reply quickly.

Sam Bonar’s half-sister Mollie Megalnik Goldfarb

Mollie, wife of Motl ‘Maurice’ Goldfarb, a tailor and furrier, died in Los Angeles during the year 1929, six years after Sam arrived from Australia. Mollie and Sam had the same mother: Lea Fier, daughter of Moshco Fier. Lea was the widow of one Yavit Megalnick, Mollie’s father, when she married Sam’s father, Nuhim- Leib Bonar.




Death Certificate of Sam Bonar’s half-sister Mollie Megalnik Goldfarb who died in Los Angeles of breast cancer during the year 1929, six years after Sam arrived from Australia. Mollie and Sam had the same mother: Lea Fier, daughter of Moshco Fier. Lea was the widow of one Yavit Megalnik, Mollie’s father, when she married Sam’s father, Nuchim-Leib Bonar. Mollie had come to Los Angeles in 1904 on the heels of the 1903 Kishinev Pogram.


  1. One of my grandmother’s brother was Motl Goldfarb, from Kishinev. As far as I know he has 3 or 4 children: Belka, Liusia…I dont know if we aré talking of the same family. Some of them went to Canada and Israel.
    Félix Fich
    Santiago, Chile

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