Pola Doenyas


Pola Doenyas spoke her mind in defense of causes and people, and her outspokenness sometimes got her in trouble. For whatever reason, she was evicted from the senior residence where she had lived for about 20 years, and was rendered homeless at the age of 86. Shortly thereafter, she suffered a stroke, was hospitalized at Harborview Hospital and transferred, comatose, to the Kline Galland home. She died on December 13, 2015, without having regained consciousness. Her belongings were put into two packed rooms in a First Hill storage facility, and one of the rooms contained a mattress where Pola probably slept. At her death, Pola’s lifelong accumulation of possessions was reduced to a box of photos, correspondence and official documents.

There are photos of cousins in California and of friends. If photos in the box were labeled at all, most of the people pictured are identified by first name only. (She knew who they were, so why was it necessary to put in their complete names?) Pola graduated from high school In Istanbul in 1946, as attested to by a diploma in the box. Nevertheless, in 1960, Pola received a high school graduation diploma from Edison Technical School, a forerunner of Seattle Central Community College. There is a glossy photo and a 1958 newspaper article of a group of young women foreign students at Edison in the costumes of their native countries, with a smiling Pola representing Turkey. Pola attended the University of Washington from 1960 to about 1963. And Pola may have been an adjunct instructor at the University of Washington for many years, although there is no supporting documentation.

Pola throughout the years

Pola lived simply and frugally, “like a poor woman,” as Rabbi Simon Benzaquen of Seattle’s Sephardic Bikur Holim put it, but she could be seen at most Jewish cultural events around Seattle and left substantial gifts to many organizations and institutions in the local Jewish community, including the Washington State Jewish Historical Society. There is a signed “Certificate of Recognition” dated June 18, 2010 acknowledging Pola’s “7 years of service,” but nothing that says for what organization she served. And there is a plaque proclaiming Pola Kline Galland’s 2008 “Jessie Danz volunteer of the year.”  Rabbi Benzaquen tells of Pola quietly volunteering at SBH and repairing many books in its library.

During her lifetime, Pola touched many lives. Word of Pola’s death spread quickly and at her funeral, the chapel of the Sephardic Brotherhood Cemetery was full. Rabbi Benzaquen said of Pola, “She was a very private person. And a modest one. Always spoke with the knowledge and understanding that every person is worthy of respect.... I think she would be embarrassed listening to what I am saying, but she was that kind of unassuming person who never wanted to be made a fuss of.”

Photos and documents donated by the family with special thanks to Pola's cousin, Irv Camhi, who helped identify individuals and gave descriptions to many of the photos.


Pola, Roza, and their parents, Yako and Mazalto Doenyas

Pola was born in Sofia Bulgaria in 1929. There are photos of Pola’s parents, Yako and Mazalto Doenyas, and of her sister Roza’s 1954 wedding to Morde “Mike” Israel in Istanbul, Turkey. Pola and her parents left Turkey for Cuba in 1956. Morde Israel’s sister, Lucy Freund, and her husband lived in Seattle. There is a photo of Pola, Roza and Morde in Seattle in 1957. Correspondence with immigration authorities and Senator Henry Jackson documents Pola’s and Roza’s efforts to bring their parents to America. Yako and Mazelto Doenyas finally arrived in Seattle in 1962.

High School Diploma from Istanbul

Roughly translates to:

"Turkish Republic National Education Ministry State Secondary School Trial Diploma.

With this degree, the student has graduated from middle school studying Turkish language, history, domestic studies, mathematics, physics, chemistry, nature and health studies, French, painting, gymnastics, music, military, and childcare."

Backside of Pola's Turkish Diploma

A Related Document

Click the image below to view the full document (PDF)

Pola's parents, Yako and Mazalto (Fortune) Doenyas

Pola's grandparents, Solomon and Pola Uziel

Pola's mother's parents, Solomon and Pola Uziel. In accordance with Sephardic tradition, Pola was named after her grandmother on her mother's side while her sister was named after someone on her father's side.

Pola's cousins, Rebecca and Esther

Pola's cousins, Rebecca and Esther, in lower east side Manhattan. Pola had family already living in the United States.

Pola. probably Turkey

Front cover of Pola's Turkish passport

Inside cover of Pola's Turkish passport

Inside Pola's Turkish Passport

Inside Pola's Turkish Passport

With stamps from Havana, Cuba and Florida, U.S.

Pola and her sister, Roza, 1948

Pola and Roza

The bride, Roza, on her wedding day

Wedding party, wedding of Roza and Mike

Roza and Mike, center. Pola, behind. Pola's parents, left.

Pola's aunt and uncle

Pola's aunt and uncle (mother's sister and husband), Bessie (Bienvenida) and Hyman Camhi at a relative's farm in Pacoima, CA. Bessie sent this photo to Pola's mother.​​​​​​​

Pola and Friends

Pola, unknown date and location

Glamour shot with unidentified gentleman

Travel Abroad

Pola's French Visa

Pola had status in France as a temporary resident.

Backside of Pola's French Visa

French immigration document

Notice of a change of residence within Paris.

Pola and Roza, Paris, 1956

French immigration document

Pola left France for Cuba in September of 1956.

Cover of Cuban immigration document

Inside of Cuban immigration document

The United States

Pola was at least familiar with if not fluent in about eight languages including Turkish, Spanish, French, English and Hebrew. She was a woman of mystery. Apparently she lived in California from the mid-1980’s to about 1995, much of that time in Stanford, California.

Pola, date unknown

Correspondence and photos hint at relationships. Had she ever been married? She was twice engaged to be married, first to someone in California. Correspondence indicates she broke off her engagement to someone in the Seattle area in around 2000-2001, because she was afraid of losing her independence.

Pola at the Volunteer Park Greenhouse

Pola, Roza, and Mike

Pola and Roza corresponded with their parents while they awaited entry into the United States.

Backside of photo, Note to Pola's mother and father

"To my dear Mama and Papa

With many kisses and hugs.

Roza, Mordo and Pola



Pola's parents with her mother's sister and husband

Pola's parents (front) with Pola's mother's sister, Bessie (Uziel) Camhi and her husband, Hyman Camhi, when they were visiting Cuba from the United States.

Written on the back: "Recordos delas ermanos y los cunyados."

Probably Ladino, Old Spanish, or Cuban Spanish meaning: memories with the sisters and the brothers-in-law.

Diploma from Edison Technical School, 1960

Click the image below to view the full document (PDF)

Pola graduated from high school In Istanbul in 1945, as attested to by a diploma in the box. Nevertheless, in 1960, Pola received a high school graduation diploma from Edison Technical School, a forerunner of Seattle Central Community College.

Pola representing Turkey in a cultural event at Edison Technical School

Pola, braving the snow, ca. 1960s

Pola was a member of the Capitol Hill Minyon, whose sanctuary was in the basement of Council House at 1501 - 17th Avenue in Seattle. And then she became a “regular” at Shabbat morning services and Jewish holidays at the Summit at First Hill. Every Shabbat she walked to the Summit at 1200 University Street, and was a part of the special Shabbat lunch group.

Pola, Roza, and Mike

Pola and her long term boyfriend

Pola with her long-term boyfriend in San Francisco in the late 70's or early 80's. Undoubtedly, the man she was engaged to.

Pola, ca. 1960s

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