Biographies/Sally Selma Kahn

Tags: Lithuanian Villanueva de la Jara Nurse

Researcher: Tina Zheng, Stuyvesant '20

Sally Selma Kahn was born in Lithuania on May 10th, 1900. She lived in Manhattan and worked at the Bellevue Hospital and arrived in Spain on January 26th, 1937 to serve as a nurse with the American Hospital Unit. Her husband, Jack Liffland, shortly after joined Sally in Spain and was assigned to Transport. Jack’s mobility in Transport allowed him to visit Sally often, usually towards the end of her shifts. Though Jack later served as a rank Sargento soldier with the Abraham Lincoln Brigades and fought all over Spain at Jarama, Quinto, and Belchite, the couple found ways to stay close with each other. 

A letter from Jack and Sally, dated January 1st, 1938, detailed their locations as Jack fighting at Albacete, while Sally volunteered at Villanueva de la Jara, only 40 miles north. Only a few weeks after, Jack was re-stationed and reported missing in action during the Ebro Offensive. Sally, hopeful for her husband’s return, quickly grew mentally and physically sick as she failed to hear any news. Forced to return home for rest, Sally left Spain for her apartment at 226 East 12th St in the East Village. Not long after, Leo Rosenberg, a friend of Jack and Sally and the recipient of the letter, reached out to Sally. Worried about her sickly appearance and poor eating habits, Leo and his wife offered to take in Sally and care for her at their home. With time, Sally gained back her strength and appeared slightly more cheerful. Soon thereafter, Sally left the couple, and though the date of her death is unknown, the reason for her death was reported as an “overtaxed heart.” As a close friend, Leo understood Sally as a beautiful and kind soul who exhibited a deep love for humanity, and her husband. Jack’s death borne unto Sally a heavy burden of loneliness, sorrow, and despair. However, Sally’s legacy as a selfless and passionate volunteer who saved numerous wounded soldiers continues to leave a mark, even after her death.


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