Abraham Kopenhagen gives an account of his eventful life with special focus on his extraordinary surname, which is all the more interesting because he also lives in Copenhagen.
Abraham was born in 1941 in the city of Ordzonikidze (North Ossetia). During World War II, his family suffered great deprivation, for example having to escape to Russia, Siberia and Afghanistan, experiencing starvation, and not being reunited until 1946 in Poland.
Abraham attended a Jewish kindergarten but later entered a Catholic school where he experienced bodily what it means to be bullied because of one’s religion! The family only saw other Jews, but generally he remembers life in Poland as fairly good. However, when Gomulka seized power, the family felt somewhat threatened and, in 1957, they were given permission to immigrate to Israel.
Abraham trained to become an air force aircraft mechanic, and even though Abraham only lived in Israel for 7 years, this period was of great importance to him. In May 1964, Abraham received an invitation to a wedding from his relatives in Copenhagen. At the same time, he wanted to make some money, see the world, and then return to Israel. He quickly found work in SAS where he was an employee for 40 years, and his plans for going abroad where soon altered, because he met his Hanna “in Heaven” on a plane to Israel, where they were both going on holiday. They were married in 1966, had their first-born, Uri, in 1967 and later on a daughter, Sanni, and another son, Boaz.
The name Kopenhagen derives from Abraham’s paternal family. In the book Gedalia og hans forfædre (Gedalia and his ancestors) from 1933, written by Johannes Werner, it says that Chief Rabbi Gedalia Levin of Copenhagen had two sons, Lazarus and Abraham. Lazarus became the rabbi of Kolo (Poland) close to the city where Abraham’s father was born, and one of Lazarus’ sons, a well-known rabbi and author of a book on the use of tefillin, assumed the name Kopenhagen. Abraham and his family visited his parent’s native towns several times without obtaining definite confirmation of the story of his name, and, furthermore, he is in touch with other people bearing the same surname in South America and in countries such as Israel, the USA, and Germany.
Being called Kopenhagen often gives rise to curious episodes: When Abraham was on his way to Copenhagen for the first time, the passport official asked: Where are you going? Copenhagen, he replied. To which the inspector said: Yes, yes – I know what your name is, but where are you going?