As Dolo and I were planning to go to Chernovitz, two other fellows decided to join us on that venture. One was Musiek Engelbach (Rajski) who gave me his flashlight and helped me explore the cave, and the other was Meniek Kram, both were the only survivors from their families. Their aim was to reach Rumania, and from there to Palestine. They brought a bottle of Vodka with them, as did Dolo and I. We started early the next morning on May l, 1944, a national two day holiday. We walked to the outskirts of the city trying to get a ride south.
Walking and holding the vodka in our hands, two military trucks stopped and the soldiers aboard asked us where we wanted to go. We said "Chernovitz, " they told us to climb on, and we gave them our two bottles of vodka. Dolo and I went to the second truck, and the other two went on the first truck.
After traveling for a while, somehow we got separated and could not see the first truck. At one point, I had a suspicion that we were not traveling in the right direction. I knocked on the cabin where the two soldiers were, and asked if they are going in the right direction. They reassured us saying, they are only trying to catch up to the other trucks.
After riding for an hour and a half, we stopped in a small town. The soldiers told us we had to get off.the truck, they had received new orders to some place else, not Chernovitz. We knew we had been fooled from the beginning, but there was nothing we could do about it.
We found ourselves stuck in the town of Horodenka, with a mostly Ukrainian population. Before the war we had a distant relative living here, so we tried to find some Jewish people, but could not.
However, we did not want to lose too much time there, so we began walking on the main road towards Chernovitz, some 40 km away.
There was no traffic at all. We stopped by some peasants' houses to ask for water and directions, making sure we were on the right track. Some people gave us a snack to take along, others offered us to stay for dinner. We declined, not wanting to lose any more time, it was a hostile territory and we wanted to get to Chernovitz before dark. We kept on walking, we were getting blisters on our feet, and it was starting to get dark. We knew it could not be much further, and we kept going.
Nighttime, at about 10:00 o'clock we reached the outskirts of the city. We were very tired, thirsty and could not walk anymore. Most of the peasant houses had their own wells. We looked for one with the well on the outside, and then spotted one with a crank and a long chain. The house was quiet, the people there were sleeping, and we started to crank up the pail for water. It must have been very deep, it took us a while to get the pail up with water. The wooden pail was green with moss and a frog was jumping inside.
We threw out the frog and quenched our thirst. The door of the house opened and a Rumanian peasant was yelling first in his language, then in Ukrainian "who are you, what do you want?" They were awakened by the noise we made cranking the well. We told him we were on our way to the city, tired from walking most of the day. We then asked him if there are any Jewish people in the vicinity, he pointed to some houses a few blocks away, and we thanked him.
The place was called Zuchka, we knocked on the door of one of those houses, and it did belong to a Jewish family. We told them we were from Poland, and they were glad to put us up for the night on their kitchen floor. They gave us breakfast in the morning, we thanked them, and proceeded to walk into the city.
After crossing a bridge, we were walking through a densely populated area, and after coming closer to the center, we could not believe our own eyes. Stores with Jewish names, Jews with beards, dressed nicely and standing in the streets talking leisurely.
It was the second day of the Russian May Day holiday, everybody was out dressed for the occasion. Our clothing drew everyone's attention, but their suspicion subsided when we asked for directions to Mr. Klein's place. It was a month since he had given us his address, when we parted on the farm, and we were quite apprehensive about finding him there.
He and his mistress were happy to see us, and offered us to stay with them as long as we wanted, even after their planned move to a newer place. He had a good job as an electrician and could afford a nicer apartment.
He told us that most of the Jewish people in this area were not harmed. Some were sent to labor camps in Transnistria, also under Rumanian rule. There were quite a number of Polish Jews who managed to cross the border into Rumania, but most were flushed out and sent back to the Germans.
The next day, we tried to find our other two friends. We were told about a place where many Polish Jews stayed. After a long walk to the place, we found there few young males, mostly from our territories. Some of them were working as city policemen, and told us that two guys from Chortkov had stayed over last night, but they do. not know where they went.
We decided to stay overnight. There were many rooms and beds in the house and, sure enough, our two friends showed up later. They were glad to see us and had no idea what had happened to us. They told us they were out exploring the border, intending to cross it and go to Bucharest..They said they might try to cross over the next day and asked what were were going to do.
We just could not go to another country without notifying my mother and his sister. We told them we have to go back to Mr. Klein's place, as he did not know where we were, and maybe a few days later we would follow them across the border.
We went back to Mr. Klein's place, told him we found a group of Polish Jews, and we were going to stay with them. We thanked him, and he asked us to be in touch with him. We stayed in the house with that group, and one fellow who worked at the police station promised Dolo and I to get us jobs.
We heard that, in the center of the city, they often check documents on young people who look eighteen years or older. They were supposed to be in the army, unless they were exempt. That was the main reason why we were anxious to get a job as a policeman or in the station, to be exempt.
A few days later they told two other fellows and us to come to the precinct and speak to their superiors. While walking on the sidewalk toward the precinct, we spotted a policeman on the other side of the street leading a young man.
The policeman saw us and yelled for us to cross over to him. We did, and he asked us for our documents. Nobody had any papers except me with my passport. As I started to explain to him that we are going to the police station to report for duty, the other two fellows bolted and ran in different directions. He was mad, took off his rifle and marched us under guard.
As we were approaching a big apartment house, I told Dolo to run into the hallway as there are exits to another street. He did. As the policeman was yelling for him to stop, I took off in the other direction and ran around the corner.
He fired a few shots in the air, but could not leave the first guy whom he had. After this incident, we were reluctant to leave the house and asked the fellow who tried to help us to get us papers permitting us to go there.
In the meantime, my mother and Dolo's sister came down, with a few other women, to buy yeast. The yeast they intended to buy here would sell for much more in Chortkov, while paying with vodka for the transportation in the army trucks.
They had Mr. Klein's address, and he told them where we were staying. My mother told me that she was glad I was not in Chortkov, because the police came looking for me and would have taken me away. They stayed overnight and promised to come on another business trip soon.
Someone from our group told us that our former two companions (Engelbach and Kram) succeeded in crossing the border to Rumania and are now in Bucharest. Dolo suggested we follow, and leave word for my mother and his sister to join us there.
The next day we hitched a ride to Dorogoy, the border city 25 km away. It was a small town, and a Russian-Romanian border crossing was already established. We had to hang around a while, figuring out if there was a way to cross the border. We met a Jewish man, an office manager for a Russian concern, who offered us jobs and even suggested we could sleep at the office, in the meantime.
After working for about a week, not finding any way to cross the border, the manager told us we have to help out the local police and military authorities on their nightly village raids to catch recruits for the army. We would be exempt from the office work but still receive pay. We did not have much choice, we reported to the military base, and were trained right away.
Without wasting time, they took us along on their raids on the villages. Many peasants did not register voluntarily, so the authorities used force. All the peasants of military age were brought to the base and from there were shipped to Russia.
A few days later, my mother came back to Chernovitz on another business trip, and discovered that we had left.
She found out where we were and how to get there, and with a little luck, she was able to get a ride most of the way to Dorogoy. She found the office where they told her that during daytime she could find us on the base.
Upon coming to the base, she found me carrying a rifle. Though we did not wear army uniforms, she insisted I should leave immediately with her, back to Chernovitz. I was afraid to leave without notifying the authorities, but she prevailed. I left the rifle with Dolo, and he said that within a week he would also come back.
We were not so lucky this time getting a ride, and had to walk most of the way back to the city. Getting back to the house, my mother decided not to go back to Chortkov and she would stay here with me. Everybody in the house was happy, because she promised to cook the main meal for everybody. Some fellows would supply the food, and everybody would pay their share.
A few days later Dolo returned, and we both tried to stay off the streets during the day. In the meantime, some fellows were able to get jobs with the police precinct.
Somebody told us that they are looking for workers at the neighborhood hospital. Dolo and I went there and they put us to work right away. I was assisting a doctor and Dolo was assigned to mop floors. We could not object.
Within an hour, they brought in a wounded soldier | with a bullet in his arm. The doctor proceeded to take the bullet out while the soldier sat on a chair.e tied the top of his arm with a cloth, and told me to hold it tight. The soldier squirmed in pain, and I was getting weaker and ready to faint. The nurse noticed it, took over, and sent me out for some fresh air. I went out to look for Dolo, found him grumbling about his work, and we decided to go back to the house without getting any work papers.
A few days later in the afternoon, a group of us were sitting at the kitchen table eating dinner that my mother was serving. Through the window, we saw two policemen opening the little gate in our backyard and coming toward our apartment.
Everybody jumped up, ran to the front bedrooms and jumped through the windows outside to the sidewalk. As the policemen were asking my mother who lives here, they spotted the last person going through the window. They ran through the door outside yelling "stop" and shooting in the air. Everybody ran in different directions, jumping fences and going through neighbors' back yards and gardens. Dolo and I ran together, found ourselves on an unknown street, and decided to seek shelter in a basement of two adjoining houses.
After a while, we started to peek out and see where we were. Two little girls who played in the yard spotted us, got scared, and ran into the house to tell their father. The father and sister came outside, approached the basement, and asked us to come out and tell them who we were.
We came out, saw they were Jewish, and told them about our predicament. He called a next door neighbor, Mr. Fischer, and they offered us to stay with them for the time being. The first man, Mr. Segal, took Dolo to his house, while I went with Mr. and Mrs. Fischer to their home.
I told them about my mother, and that she would be worried if we did not come back. They agreed to go and calm my mother to let her know that we are in good hands.
The first time they got there, she was not home. Later they went back in the early evening, found her, and she was glad to hear that we were well and been taken care off.
My mother told Mr. Fischer that the policeman took her to the station and hit her a number of times during the interrogation, accusing her of harboring deserters.
The next day, she came over to verify I was with nice people and she was satisfied. She, then, went to buy some yeast for trade, promised to be back in a couple weeks, and left for Chortkov.
Mr. Segal, his sister, and Mr. and Mrs. Fischer treated us very nicely and offered to let us stay with them as long as we wanted. The Fischer family had an eighteen year old son, Siggi, who was mobilized with the Russian army one week earlier, and a fifteen year old daughter Nelly.
Mr. Segal's wife died in a labor camp in Moldavia, located in Russia, where the Rumanian authorities sent some of the Jews from Bukovina. He had two small daughters Sylvia and Ethel, and a sister Sally who lived with them after she lost her husband in the same labor camp.
The two families warned Dolo and I not to venture out too far from the neighborhood, because of the check points and patrols searching for young men eligible for the army.
Dolo obeyed the orders, but I was restless and was taking chances going out, especially to the town center. I went out, going to the movies or concerts, either alone or accompanied by Nelly.
I felt that having a Russian passport I would be able to talk my way out of trouble. It did not take long, I was stopped on the street by an Army patrol, and was asked for documents. Showing them my passport, they handed it back to me, and told me to go along with them.
They said I needed exemption papers, because the passport indicated 1923 as my year of birth, and therefore I was eligible for military duty.
They brought me with a few others to a school building where some hundred young and older people had been assembled. I was on the third floor of the building, standing by an open window, and looking down to the street for some familiar face outside to relay the message to the Fischer family that I had been arrested.
After a few hours, I spotted one of our policemen in civilian clothing who lived in the apartment where I previously stayed, and asked him if he could help me. He said he would come back with someone else, and together they might be able to arrange my release.
I did not put too much faith in his promise. I looked outside the window, saw it was very close to a rain leader, and decided to slide down. It was not a main thoroughfare, though people were walking by, probably wondering who was that acrobat, sliding down from the third floor. I managed to get down and went back to the house.
Mrs. Fischer pleaded with me not to go outside the neighborhood, but I just could not stay indoors all day. Sure enough, I was caught again.
I was walking with a few boys from the block towards the center of the city. None of us had any exemption documents; some had non valid papers, one did not have any document, only I had a valid Russian passport, and somehow felt a little more secure than the others.
As we neared the midtown area, we encountered a police checkpoint. There was no time or place to run, we had to stop. They asked for documents, and without any valid ones except for my passport, we were taken to the police station by one of the patrolman.
As we came into the police station, he put us in a room and told us to sit down and wait for his superior officer. I saw him place my passport in a desk drawer with the rest of the papers, taken from the other fellows.
After sitting there for a few hours, a police officer walked in, sat down behind the desk, and said, "Let's have your documents. We told him the other policeman took it from us and put it in the drawer. He opened the drawer, saw some of the papers, and called a few names. He then turned to the fellow who did not have any papers at all and me and said, 'What about your documents"?
The other fellow conceded he had none, while I explained that the other policeman put my passport in the same drawer. He looked in the drawer again and claimed that there was no passport there.
I repeated myself, saying I saw him put it in, he started to get mad, and asked me where I was from and what was I doing in this city.
I responded, "from Chortkov in the next state. I came to visit my relatives,"
giving him the Fischer's family address.
He thought for a moment and said, "You were under the German occupation, how could you have a passport?" I told him that I kept it on me all the time, and since I did not want to lose my passport, I raised my voice a little and repeated that it had to be in the drawer.
By that point, the police officer got mad, grabbed me by the collar, took me outside to a small structure in the yard, opened the door, threw me down a few stairs, and locked the door.
It was a very small cellar, wet, moldy, and without any windows or lights. It was evening already, and I was in that solitary confinement all night.
In the morning somebody came for me, took me out, and put me in a chamber with many other people, all males, but I could not see any of the fellows I came with. By that time, I did not put up any fuss, already knowing I would not get my passport back. Besides, I was very hungry, not eating the previous evening or this morning and worried about the Fischer family and my mother. The Fischers probably did not know where I was, and my mother would be upset finding out that I was caught and taken into the army.
Then the order came to line up in rows of two's, and they started to
march us through narrow corridors in single file.
In the courtyard of the police building there was a long line of people waiting to register for passports. The line stretched all way into one of the side doors, and we could see through the glass more people inside.
Our line, guarded by policemen in front, middle and back, was passing by that side door.
As I was passing by the side door, instinctively I stepped out of line, opened the door, and lined up among the people inside.
Few of the fellows in back of me noticed, but did not react and continued marching, while the people I joined grumbled that I squeezed in. After a few minutes, I said, 'Alright, I will go to the back of the line. "
By that time my group was marched out with the policemen not realizing that somebody was missing. Carefully, I walked out of the courtyard and made it back to the house.
The Fischers were happy to have me back and again admonished me for not listening to them. Yet, I begged them not to tell my mother about that episode.
Next day, my mother and Dolo's sister came to visit u and also buy some more yeast. She stayed overnight wit the Fischers and Dolo's sister stayed next door, with the Segals. Next day they returned, with my mother not finding out what happened to me the day before.
A few days later, I was restless again. I heard that; famous jazz band from Moscow was giving a concert i, the city. I decided to take a chance again, but this time ventured out in the early evening, hoping there would no be any patrols.
I made it alright and it was very enjoyable.
The concert ended at ten o'clock, and not too far: from there, a patrol suddenly appeared and stopped many of us. Of course by then, I had no passport or an) other document. They checked out everybody, took three of us who did not have any documents, and were leading us on the main street with people looking at us like at criminals.
We arrived at a building with a police guard up front and a big courtyard inside. They reported to somebody in one of the offices, brought us to a room, opened it with a key, and pushed us inside.
The room was dark, and we were stepping on people as we entered. When I got used to the darkness, I saw it was very crowded and people were sleeping on the floor.
A man next to me asked in Jewish who I was, how old, and where I lived. When I told him the street, he said he lived there too and he knew the house where the Fischers lived. He also said he will be released in the morning because he is an engineer and exempt from the army. I asked him to tell the Fischer family where I was, hoping maybe they would be able to do something.
The room was full with foul air, and worrying about my mother, I could not fall asleep and was glad when dawn came. Soon after, they were opening the door and calling out people's names.
Many people had left the room which became less crowded, and I began to realize that my name will not be called. After some more people were called, I tried to open the door, and it was not locked.
I went out, walked through a few different rooms and doors and came to a long corridor. The only door in the corridor led to the courtyard. Through a window, I could see people marching in the courtyard, their heads shaved, and soldiers training them. It was an army embarkment place.
I walked out to the courtyard, looked around, and saw an archway which I thought would probably lead to the street. It was through that side they brought us in, though the archway doors were closed evidently at night.
Nobody paid any attention to me as I was walking toward the archway and could see the main street on the other side, but there was a policeman standing guard.
Approaching the policeman, he stopped me saying, 'Where are you going?" As he spoke, I knew he was Jewish and a local resident. I answered in Yiddish that they released me and I was going home, not expecting any problems with him.
I was proven wrong, when he started asking, 'Who released you and where is the document?', I realized then that he would not let me through. Answering him with 'Document! Shmocument!", I hit his chest with my right arm and knocked him to the ground. With people in the street looking on, I started to run. He picked himself up, yelling "Stop, stop or I'll shoot", But by the time he shot 23 salvos in the air, I was out of his sight, whereas he could not move too far away from his post. I made it back to the house and made a promise to the Fischers that I will not chance going out on my own, anymore.
Evidently, the engineer was not released, because he never came to relay my message to the Fischers.
During September and October, I stayed mostly around the house. Sometimes, I would go to play cards with other fellows on the same block who were in the same predicament.
My mother came only once in these two months, since the lady she was helping out in the market needed her. Mrs. Fischer encouraged me to stay with them, stating that soon the war would be over, and afterwards they would go to America. They have family in California, and they would take me and my mother along. They were very nice to me, did not ask for any money for my stay, and probably would have liked me as a son-in-law.
One day, they received an official notice from the army in the mail stating their son Siggi fell in a battle by Leningrad. It was a sad house that week. He was only eighteen years old.
Mrs. Fischer was besides herself. She did not want to believe it, even when a friend of Siggi confirmed his death. The friend who was from this block and was mobilized together with him wrote a letter home stating that he saw Siggi being shot. Yet, she would not give up hope that he is alive, she went to a few Gypsies, and they also claimed that he is alive. ,
Mr. Fischer thought she was crazy for believing in a Gypsy rather than the official authorities, Nelly thought the same, I was neutral.
Within few weeks, from a hospital in Leningrad came a letter from Siggi. He was shot in the leg, and it had to be amputated. Mrs. Fischer was ecstatic. All the neighbors came to congratulate her, and everybody said it was a miracle, since the authorities very seldom made such blunders.
During the month of December, my mother came with good news. She had petitioned the court in Chortkov for new documents and on the next trip she would have them. In the petition she applied by the name of Wasserman and changed my date of birth. Wasserman was my father's original name when he escaped to Poland, but had to assume a dead cousin's name, Morgenstern, because the Polish Government was sending back to Russia all those who came in illegally.
She had the midwife who delivered me, Mrs. Jakubovska, swear in court that we were Wassermans and I was born in 1927 (instead of 1923). With the new papers, I would not be eligible for the army yet, and could go back to the city.
The Russian authorities announced that any former Polish citizen who wishes to leave the territories may move to the western part of Poland which was being liberated. They wanted to get rid of the Poles, so they would not have a claim in the future on this territory. They started a voluntary registration of citizens wishing to leave and Jewish survivors were included. We registered, hoping that with the new documents we would be able to leave for Poland.
My mother came back in January with the new, official papers that contained our pictures, and stated, 'We are going back to our city tomorrow. "
The Fischer family was reluctant to see us go. They were worried about me going to the outskirts of the city and stopped by check points. Even with my new papers, they said, I hardly look like a teenager, and Mrs. Fischer had me wear her son's shorts, in order to look younger. In addition, they decided to have Nelly and the next door neighbor Sally Segal accompany us.
We thanked them for everything they did for us and promised to be in touch.
Next day we parted and started on our way out of the city. Sally was very familiar with the city, as she led us through streets without any police stations. My mother had two bottles of vodka with her to pay the soldiers for a ride back. We had a four to five km walk to the city boundaries, as Sally was still trying to avoid police stations and checkpoints.
At one point we entered a street which was empty of any traffic, but down the road I noticed what looked like a police patrol. Sally said, "No, it could not be, there is no police station in the vicinity." As we came closer, we could see two policemen on the sidewalk, but it was too late to turn back.
We were approaching a newly established police station. The patrol stopped us with "Let's see your documents," referring to me. One policeman was about eighteen or nineteen years old and looked like a kid compared to me.
As I showed them my newly acquired document, showing I was just seventeen, he was skeptical and chuckled. Sally had the presence of mind to take a bottle of vodka out of my mother's bag and gave it to the policeman saying, "Comrade policeman, he is seventeen, and I am his cousin. He was visiting us, now he is going back to his city, and both of you enjoy the drink."
I arrived back to Chortkov, staying at the separate room mother received from the lady she was helping out in the market. I was told not to go out at all during the day, since they came to look for me at my place of work, and somebody might recognize me and tell the authorities.
Mother had added our names for the repatriation to Poland, and it was a matter of a few weeks of waiting for the transport. Every week transports were leaving for Pshemishl, the first city liberated in western Poland since last fall.
The newly formed Polish Government had its seat in Lublin, since Warsaw was not liberated yet. Government representatives were in every large city with a county seat, registering the people in the territories, issuing new papers, and organizing the transports. The Ukrainians who were former Polish citizens, with few exceptions, did not register, as they wanted to live in the new Ukraine, rather than in Poland.
Many Russians with their families were settling in the city, holding
most key positions in every aspect of city life.
Once in a while during the day, I would sneak out from the house, just to walk around the city streets and occasionally to meet someone I knew.
One evening with my mother's knowledge, I went to the local movie house with some friends. As the picture was finished, we found ourselves in the midst of a police raid; the doors were locked, only one exit was open, and on the way out they checked every male's documents. Many in the audience were held for lack of proper papers.
My newly issued court paper was satisfactory to them, though I was very
careful now, not to go out even in the evenings.
In the beginning of April, we received our Polish papers and were given April 10th as our date to be on the transport.
My friend Dolo, his sister, and niece had already left on April 3rd. Even though the papers entitled us to go to the city of Pshemishl only, Dolo said they would travel further all the way to Cracov, which was recently liberated.
He tried to convince us to come there too, saying it was a big city and it would be easier to get out after the war.
Our aim was to go to Palestine.
On the 10th, early in the morning, we arrived at the train station with the few belongings we had accumulated. We thanked God when the train started to move, and the Poles were singing their national anthem. We traveled in very crowded cattle cars, because the Poles carried a lot of their belongings with them, though their furniture were to follow later.
Two days later, we arrived in Pshemishl. Most of the Poles got off, we and a few other Jewish people did not move, since we heard the train would continue to Cracov. It was not as crowded as before, even though some additional Poles joined this part of the trip.
The next day, April 13th, we arrived in Cracov.
Getting off the train, somebody was waiting for the Poles and giving them directions where to assemble. We were seven Jews and kept separate. We did not know what to do, or where to go, but did not want to go with the Poles and wanted to be with our own people.
One of the gentile carriage owners approached us, saw that we were Jews, and offered to take us to the Jewish Community Center, explaining that everybody had to register with them. We agreed, he took us there, and we paid him for the trip.
It was on 18 Dluga Street, a large building with offices, dormitories, and an inside courtyard. We were assigned separate rooms, received meals, and joined the other residents who were from different parts of Russian territory.
Inquiring about my friend Dolo and his sister, I found that they had been already registered and assigned to an apartment in a neighborhood where former Polish army officers lived with their families. I went to see them where they stayed in a large apartment block. Dolo was happy to see me, and pointed out to me other people from Chortkov who also lived there, and we visited them.
Most of them were dealing in the black market, they bought goods from Russian soldiers coming back from Germany and sold them on the black market. At that time, Warsaw was already liberated, and the Russian army was fighting their way towards Berlin.
The second week, I met some fellows from the vicinity of Chortkov who lived in the same building we did. They told me that a German city, Gleivitz, which was very close to the Polish border, was liberated. They had traveled there to sell vodka to the Russian soldiers who would pay any price just to have it. They offered me to join them, and showed me where to buy the vodka. I agreed, told my mother the trip would take about three days, and she was not too happy about it.
We traveled by train to the city of Katovice and Sosnovietz, and from there by trolley to Gleivitz. On the way out from Cracov, we passed a big place, fenced all around, and with many barracks inside. Some people on the train pointed out it was the Auschwitz Concentration Camp. I had not idea it was so close to Cracov and other inhabited areas, and my only knowledge about the camp was from Russian newspapers with articles about Jews from Hungary being sent there.
Coming to Gleivitz, we were happy to see how the Russian soldiers were treating the local population. If somebody pointed out to them a former member of the SS or the Gestapo, they would shoot them on the spot. They raped German women, looted anything they wanted from the houses, and even took furniture and appliances without being punished.
The military commanders looked the other way, since it was a small revenge for what the Germans did in Russia. The civilian population did not dare to be on the streets, except to line up for food, and store owners were forced to stay open with very little to sell.
Trying to sell the Vodka we found out that by that time, many other people were doing the same thing, and we had to sell our vodka with very little profit. Entering a tavern full of Russian soldiers, we tried the famous German beer. It was a good dark draft beer.
We stayed in Gleivitz for two nights and returned to Cracov. One evening on May 8th, we heard a lot of shooting on the streets. We were scared, and when someone mentioned that it could be a pogrom, everybody went down to hide in the cellars.
We stayed down throughout the night, but in the morning we heard that the war ended and the shooting was the way the Polish soldiers were celebrating. The night before, they got drunk and were shooting in the air.
It was great to be alive at that moment, and see the complete destruction of the German Reich and its army.
Soon thereafter, we heard that transports were being organized with people coming out from the concentration camps at a big railroad junction, in a suburb of Plashov. Dolo and I went there to see for ourselves. We saw one train with mostly young men and women, emaciated, with shaved heads, tattooed numbers on their wrists, all waiting for the day they will return to their former homes.
The survivors were being assembled according to their country of origin. These people were mostly from Hungary, and some from territories which were now turned over to Rumania. Therefore, the destination of that transport was Bucharest, with stops in Czechoslovakia and Hungary.
The people were eating and sleeping on the train, kept isolated from the local population, and some were on the train for a week and longer.
We were talking to them in Yiddish, got acquainted with a few girls, and they invited us on the train to eat with them. We voiced our interest in going to Bucharest, and they promised to inform us about the day of departure. We came back every day and got to know more people. When I told them I had a mother, they said it would be no problem as they would make room for her too.
Dolo's sister with her daughter did not want to go on that train. She was dealing on the black market and wanted to make some money. One day the girls told us that the transport would leave the next day, to come early, and bring my mother.
Next morning, we took our few belongings, said our "good-byes," and showed up early on the train. The girls made room for my mother, we settled, and waited for the departure. As the train was moving, we saw three other Jewish fellows who had hung around the station every day, but kept to themselves and did not mingle with the repatriates.
These three fellows jumped on the train and were clinging onto the outside of the car. Of course, they were spotted right away, and were told to jump off. They ignored the orders, the train was stopped, and they were removed bodily. Being mad, they pointed out to the authorities that there are more stowaways on the train. All the cars were checked, we were spotted and removed.
All that time was wasted for nothing. Later on, I met those three fellows, and confronted them that they had gained nothing by telling on us. They apologized, but we missed our chance to go to Bucharest.
When we got back, our room was already taken, and we were assigned to a different location in another part of the city. In the building there were mostly repatriates from camps who did not stay long.
I spent most of my time visiting people I knew, going to market places and exploring different neighborhoods.
Soon afterward, we heard that one from our group of four, Musiek Engelbach, who left Chortkov together with us had arrived in Cracov from Bucharest. I went to see him where he was staying with some of our townspeople. He was well dressed, in contrast to us, as if from another world. He was now employed by the Jewish National Theater.
As a sideline, he was able to procure a valid document allowing him to bring back thirty repatriates from the concentration camps. He had to bribe some Rumanian officials in order to receive such authorization, but was hoping to receive much more in return, since people were willing to pay dearly to get out of Poland.
He entrusted me to gather a group of twenty five people for a certain amount of money. Them plus us five would make up the thirty persons. He was not going to take any money from us; my mother, myself, Dolo, his sister, and his niece.
It took me a week to find the twenty five people we could trust, and yet able to pay the price he wanted.
Towards the end of May we decided on a day to meet at the main railroad station. Musiek presented his document to the authorities, and they assigned us one freight car on the train going to Czechoslovakia.
It was a transition period between the military and civilian authorities and the rail system was very disorganized; no schedules, no timetables for destinations, and no need to buy tickets.
After waiting a few hours, the train was finally moving, and everybody was happy, though concerned for the unknown. Musiek told everybody not to speak Russian at all, only Jewish, because officially we are Hungarian-Rumanian repatriates, and among us, there were some men who deserted from the Russian army.
We reached the Czechoslovakian border point in the evening and Russian soldiers boarded the train. They checked every car, and when they boarded ours, Musiek showed them his document. They checked it and saw it was in order but, evidently, were not satisfied. We heard them talking among themselves that we were Jews and probably had money on us. At that point, one of our group took off his hat and started to make a collection for them. Everybody contributed what they could, and when one person took out a bottle of vodka, the soldiers' faces lit up. By then, they were satisfied and proceeded to the next car.
We were now in Czechoslovakia and passing through the Carpathian Mountains. I had no idea how far and where the train would go on its way to Bucharest. Everybody was sleeping or dozing when the train finally stopped. It was still night time, so we stayed on the train, and in the morning we were told to get off.
We were led to a school building, received breakfast, washed up, and rested for a few hours. The town was Koszyce, and we were told to stay inside the building.
They fed us again, then we boarded another train, still with no idea where the train would take us. But Musiek was sure it would be Rumania, because his destination paper called for it.
In the few places the train had stopped, we saw signs in Hungarian, and the next morning we stopped in Debrecen in Hungary, thought we did not go through any border checkpoint. Again, we were taken to a public school building, fed, and before we boarded the train again, we received more food to take along. Knowing what we had endured, we were treated nicely by the Czechoslovakian and Hungarian authorities.
After traveling for two days, the train stopped at a place called Oradea-Mare, a former Hungarian territory, but now in Rumania. Evidently the authorities notified the local Jewish community about us, as a delegate showed up at the station and took us to their quarters.
The community center was supported by the American Jewish Distribution Committee. They told us that Bucharest was filled with refugees, instead we could stay in the dorms in the building, we would be fed, and also from this point every week groups were leaving for Palestine through Italy. We would have to wait our turn, since there were about two hundred Jewish refugees from Poland and Russia waiting for theirs. We were told we are free to leave, anytime we want to. Musiek advised us to stay there in the meantime, while he went back to his job at the theater in Bucharest.
We met people from our territory; Dolo and his sister met a cousin who was in the management of the community center, and was glad to see that they survived.
He promised to help in any way he could, and we decided to stay.
We were registered, given some spending money and some clothing, and were free to roam around. We walked the streets, beaches, and the market places of the city, it was a nice and friendly place to stay. Later, we were told that our turn to leave for Italy would come in four weeks.
Some people from our group traveled to Bucharest by train just to see the city and upon returning, said it was a long two days and nights trip. One of the men who came back told me that he met Jack Glaser, our cousin, who had inquired about us.
Russian occupation forces were in the city and all over Rumania, as we had to be careful not to be recognized as refugees from Poland or Russia. Mother told me to go to the post office and send a telegram to the Fischers in Chernovitz, telling them about our arrival. The telegram was quite expensive and never reached them, as I found out in later years. We decided that I should travel to Bucharest to find our cousin Jack and bring him back to stay with us.
It was June, the nicest month of the summer, by the time I boarded the train. Actually, I had to climb on the roof of the train, and found myself a little spot to sit and something to hold onto. It was a passenger train, but with no room inside. Two other men were traveling with me, on the roof, to the capital of Rumania. They brought blankets with them since they were told that the nights are cold in the mountain regions.
We did not realize that these blankets would be life savers as filters, going through many long tunnels with the smoke choking our throat. We had to be careful not to fall asleep together, as one could easily slide off the roof and fall, especially on the curves.
We also did not know that on this train we had to buy tickets, and when the Rumanian conductor who was not too lazy and came up onto the roof to check, we scared him off with a few Russian curse words. They were afraid of the Russians, fearing for having been allied with the Germans.
Coming to Bucharest, we tried to spot Jewish looking people and inquired how to get to the community center. We found it located in a big school building and supported by the American-"Joint", Jewish Distribution Committee.
Many people congregated there, most of them refugees from Poland. I inquired about my cousin Jack, and was told that he joined a kibbutz, a collective group, and left to a different part of the country, eventually on his way for Palestine.
I met a fellow, Bernard Fleischer, who was from the town of Zaleshchiki near Chortkov, and had arrived through Chernovitz. He took me to different parts of the city to show me around and I spent the whole day with him. The next day, we met again and towards the end of the day, he showed me part of the night life.
Being it was late and I decided to go back to Oradea Mare the next day, he recommended that I stay overnight in the Jewish section of the town, close to the train station. He took me to a poor Jewish neighborhood, showed me a house, and told to go in and ask to stay over night.
They charged a nominal amount, and I settled in. However, there was
an outdoor wedding near by, and the music and noise did not let me sleep
all night. Pretty soon, the fleas had joined in and I was glad when dawn
came. I got up from the sheet that was full with blood stains from my bites,
washed, and left. Three days after my arrival, I left without even trying
to find Musiek.
A week later I returned to my mother who was disappointed, because I could not locate our cousin.
After staying in Oradea-Mare for about five weeks, we were called in by the management of the center. We were notified that we were leaving the next day for Austria by the way of Hungary.
We received forged papers stating that we are Austrian Jews going back from the camps in Poland, and were told not to talk loud in any language, except Yiddish or German.
Everybody was excited and pleased that we finally would be on our way to "Eretz Israel", Palestine. Next morning, we boarded a train destined for Budapest for an uneventful but a long trip on the train that did not have a schedule and made stops everywhere.
We arrived at Budapest together with three hundred people. Our supervisors led us to a building owned by the Jewish community, where we were fed and stayed for three days, free to go and explore the city. Still, we were told not to speak Russian or Polish on the streets, because of the presence of undercover Russian police.
After the three days, we boarded a train destined to the Austro-Hungarian border, where we would be checked out again by the Russians, before leaving their zone. Arriving at the border, we disembarked and stayed on the platform throughout the night under the open sky among many other Austrians and Germans.
In the morning, an Austrian train pulled into the station and dropped off its passengers. We then went aboard, as the Russian guards were checking everybody's papers. Although they were suspicious of some of us, they did not put up any obstacles. When the Russian guards left, it was the turn of the British and Austrians, checking us more thoroughly.
When they finished checking everyone on the train, it finally started to move, and we were very happy to be out of the Russian jurisdiction.
We did not know our destination, I was hoping it would be Vienna. Everyone wanted to see the city, but to our disappointment the train came to stop at Gratz, and we were told to disembark.
We were put in a big and exclusive hotel, with splendor all around, inside and out. When they called us down for supper, we thought the meal would be terrific; the silverware was real, tables were of marble, but all we got to eat was a watery soup without meat or bread. There was a food shortage in Austria, very few stores were open, and the next day we spent many hours looking for a bakery.
The hotel contained the office of the "Aliyah Beth" group, the illegal one. The group was coordinating the illegal transports out of Rumania and Hungary. Some of the group were Jewish Brigade Soldiers from Palestine who were attached to the British forces in Italy, working without uniforms and trying to bring as many Jews as possible to Palestine. From here the transports were taken to the south of Italy where it was easier to board an illegal ship.
We were called individually into the office, were interviewed, and were asked if we have any relatives in Palestine. Then, my mother and I were given new forged Red Cross identifications that contained our pictures and stated that we are from the city of Bari in southern Italy.
This time, we were told not to speak any language on the train but Yiddish, because the British authorities are suspicious of any Jewish transport traveling through Austria, as they were trying to prevent Jewish survivors from reaching any place from where they would embark on illegal boats destined for Palestine.
It took several days to organize the transport, then we boarded the train for Italy. We traveled across the breathtaking Austrian Alps, through narrow winding passes, and on the second day we were a few hours away from the Italian border.
Near the city of Klagenfurt, a quarrel broke out among several Hungarian Jews, as they were yelling and cursing in Hungarian. The Austrian conductors heard them and unbeknown to us, notified the British authorities in Klagenfurt.
When the train pulled in to the station, we were surrounded by British soldiers and taken off the train. We were accused of traveling with forged papers, were marched to an empty school building and were kept under arrest.
We were worried whether the Jewish authorities would find out about us, and how long we would have to stay under arrest. There were no facilities for sleeping but the floors, and we managed the best we could. They did feed us, but treated us with hostility.
On the third day, we were freed to continue our trip, and we boarded another train for Italy.
A representative from the Jewish Underground told us that only the day before they found out our train did not reach the destination, and had to bribe our way out.
We found out later, that because our train was stopped in Klagenfurt, the Jewish authorities discontinued for a while the rail transport. The people had to cross the Alps by foot, and upon crossing to Italy, they were picked up in trucks by the Jewish Brigade soldiers.
When we crossed the Italian border, everybody breathed a sigh of relief.
We stopped at the first town we reached, Mestra, only a few kilometers from Venice. Again, we were lodged in a school building for three days. Many people took a trolley car to Venice to see the city, but my mother and I were too exhausted from all the travel and stayed behind with some of the others.
The third day, the beginning of August, 1945, we boarded a train again destined for Bologna, a big university city in Northern Italy. Coming there, we walked a short distance to a former army camp, full with tents and surrounded by wire fence.
The camp was filled mostly with Italians coming from labor in Germany, resting before returning to their hometowns they were interrogated by the British. There was only one gate, guarded by British soldiers, but we were free to come and go.
The first few days we did not have any problem adjusting to live in a tent, but after a severe thunderstorm, the whole area was flooded and was a mess for a couple days, until it dried up.
One day a Jewish Brigade army truck came to the camp with a soldier asking to see the people from Chortkov. The soldier was Asher Maiselman, my Betar leader before the war, who was mobilized to join the Polish Army arid later found a way to get to Palestine. He heard that some people from Chortkov were here, so he came to see us. He knew Dolo's sister well, and his mother and sister were with me in Camp Svidova, where they were killed.
The second week of our stay, they announced over the loudspeaker that all the people who came from Austria, meaning the Jews, have to come to the camp office to register.
The rumors were that they would send us back to Austria, so my mother, I, Dolo, and his sister with the niece decided not to register.
One morning, when we awoke, we saw British army trucks at the front of the gate. Soon after, an announcement came calling the people from Austria to report for a transfer. Since we did not register, we decided to escape, we picked up our few belongings, and through a hole in the fence went to the bombed out part of the train station.
We stayed there a few hours, not knowing where to go, and then decided on Rome. Thinking that we could find the American Jewish Distribution Committee in such a big city, and maybe they would help us. Trying to find out which train was going to Rome, we asked several workmen, but not knowing the language, except the name Roma, we had a difficult time.
Finally one conductor pointed to a train, and we boarded, hoping it was going in the right direction. The train was a mix of passenger and cattle cars, and was full with people inside and on the roofs. We found a place on the roof, away from the electrical conduit, and settled there, having to be very careful not to get near the wires. Within a short time there was no more room left even on the roofs. Finally at dusk of a warm August night, the train started to move, and we hoped to be in Rome by morning.
After traveling for a few hours, we noticed the train going alongside the water. I knew that Rome was not near a sea, but I thought maybe that is the route. By morning we still saw the water on our left and I knew we were going south.
On each stop Italian kids were selling sandwiches and drinks, and we were very glad, because by then, we were quite hungry.
On one of the stops a man was electrocuted, accidentally touching the wire above. Also on one of the stations, the conductor was not lazy and came up onto the roof, asking for tickets.
Most of the people did have tickets. But as he was approaching us, I was in a predicament how to communicate with him, wanting to tell him that we are Jewish survivors. I reached for a Siddur (Prayer Book) amidst our belongings, tore off one page, and gave it to him. He studied it from both sides; not being able to understand what it is, took it and moved on.
We traveled all day, and by six o'clock in the afternoon we reached the last stop of the train, the city of Bari. What a coincident with the forged papers we had received in Gratz?
We found ourselves a little place on the outside platform filled with a throng of people, where some were sleeping in the shade exhausted.
Dolo and I decided to go out and walk toward the city before it turned dark, hoping to find a place to stay overnight. Otherwise, we would have to wait for a train to take us to Rome.
Walking a short distance on the street leading to the city, a military jeep with two soldiers sped by toward the railroad station. I noticed a Jewish star on the jeep and mentioned it to Dolo. He did not notice the star, so we continued to walk, but then the jeep made a "U" turn, coming toward us. Stopping, they asked in Yiddish if we are Jews and where are we going to.
We told them our predicament, they said "get in and take us to the women." They helped them with the belongings into the jeep, and told us that they would take us to a camp, further south where it houses Jewish survivors, and that we were lucky to meet them, since there were no Jews in Bari.
It was getting dark when we started on a very bumpy ride. After three hours, they brought us to a displaced persons camp in "Santa Maria Di Bagni" which was run by UNRRA, the United Nations Relief and Resettlement Agency. It was late at night, they put us in a recreation building, we settled on the stage, and thanked the two unknown Jewish soldiers for their kind deed.
The next morning, the people from the camp told us to get breakfast at the dining room, and then to register in the office. Everybody wanted to know where we came from, how we survived, and how did we get here. They were surprised to hear that our transport was sent back from Bologna and that we came here by ourselves. We also saw some people we had met before in the Oradea-Mare community center which they had left before us.
After we registered, a man came over and introduced himself as Joseph Rokach from Chortkov. We knew his family that owned a big print shop in town. He, actually, lived in Vienna before the war, but escaped to Italy where he survived, telling us that the Italian people were very good to the Jews and helped them survive.
He was very happy to see us, and being he was the food warehouse manager in the camp, he lived in a villa by himself on the hill in Santa-Croce. He told us to move in with him, where there were separate rooms and a backyard. He would supply the food and my mother and Dolo's sister would cook for us and him, so we would not even have to go to the dining room.
Santa Maria was a summer resort located by the Mediterranean Sea on the southern point of Italy. The neighboring resort was Santa Katherina which had its own beach. Above those two places, on the hills, was Santa Croce. All those villas were owned by former fascists who abandoned them after their defeat.
We moved into the house of Mr. Rokach and were very comfortable. Most of the time, I spent at the beach in Santa Katherina, or near the camp offices in Santa Maria, where I attended some Hebrew courses and signed up for one in auto mechanics.
One day, we had a surprise visit from Salka Shachar, who was a soldier in the Jewish Brigade. She was from Chortkov, and when she heard that some people in the camp were from Chortkov, she came to see us. Her brother was a classmate of mine in the public and business schools, but later perished. She also knew Dolo and his sister and we introduced her to Mr. Rokach.
She resides in Israel now.
We also had a visit from the Chief Rabbi in Israel, Ithchak Herzog, who inspired us with his fatherly talk.
In September we had another surprise, our cousin Jack showed up saying he was trying to find us in Poland. He deserted the Polish army, traveled with a Zionist group to Rumania, and wound up in North Italy. He, then, found out that we are in the south and followed. He was happy to be with us, and I told him about my trip to Bucharest, missing him there, and being happy he found us.
In October, Dolo and I were called to the representative from Palestine. He informed us that, within a day or two, it was our turn to leave on an illegal journey to Palestine.
Being my mother is not a young woman, she would have to wait for a better chance. I could not accept the offer and leave my mother behind. Within a few days, Dolo, his sister, and niece left in the middle of the night.
After a rough journey, evading the British patrols, they arrived at their destination.
We had a neighbor who lived nearby, Otto Schell, who was from Vienna and during the war, served with the British army. He spoke very good English, and I showed him the wrinkled affidavit from 1923 which my father received from New York and I still had in my wallet. Some of the letters and numbers of the street address were very hard to decipher.
But, he decided to write to the superintendent of the building, hoping he picked the right street number.
He was certain the street name was Audubon Avenue, and claimed, "All you can lose is the postage. "
Within a month, a letter came from Aunt Fruma Wasserman from New York. As it turned out, the letter reached the superintendent of the building who remembered the Wasserman family, found out their address, and sent them our letter.
My Uncle Charlie had already died in November of 1942, but our aunt informed us that she is getting in touch with my mother's family and they are working on the immigration papers. In addition, they included some money in the letter.
We were overjoyed, especially my mother knowing she could see again some of her sisters and brothers and some of my father's family whom she knew.
Jack's sister in the Bronx was also notified. She was overjoyed to hear he was alive and was working to bring him over, too.
Shortly afterward we received new affidavits from our relatives, and we traveled to register in the nearest American Counsel in Naples.
Within a thirty mile radius there were two additional displaced persons camps; Santa Leuca and Cesarea, and the camp trucks traveled quite often between those places. Many people took advantage of the opportunity to travel, visiting people they knew. Toward the end of the year, we were notified that all three camps were being consolidated into one, and transferred to a camp in Bari.
In January, we were moved there.
In the camp, the buildings consisted of fourteen one level army barracks and additional buildings for the administration, recreation, canteen, etc. It was managed by the International Refugee Organization, I.R.O., successor of the U.N.R.R.A.
People were free to choose which building to stay in, but preferred to stay together with those they knew from the previous camps.
We settled together with Jack in building #10. My mother was notified to come to the American Council in Naples, and we traveled there again. She was informed that since she was born in Kiev, Russia, she would receive the visa shortly, providing she could secure transportation. I would have to stay behind since the Polish quota was overfilled for many years to come.
I was happy for my mother and sad for myself, having to part now. Luckily, with Jack around, I would not have to be alone.
Most of the time I spent, going at night to the city for a movie or opera, or to the beach during the day. And of course, sometimes many hours were spent playing cards.
Some people traveled to Rome, Milano, and other cities, dealing on the black market, while I got a part time job in our canteen as a bookkeeper, a job that kept me busy for two-three days a week.
My mother received her ticket from the family for a voyage on a Polish ship, leaving from Genoa in May. Everybody in the camp was happy for her, because as of that day very few people were leaving for the U.S.A, except for some young fellows who received student visas, secured by their families with admission to a college.
We traveled to Genoa for' a few days before departing, and I was very sad coming back alone. Mother had a good voyage. Everyone from both families, hers and my father's, waited for her at the pier and she was well received. She did not waste time and started to arrange for my entry to the U.S.A., without waiting for a general solution to the refugee problem. A solution which was pending, at that time, before the Congress.
She also sent a package back for me with one of the Polish sailors she befriended on the ship, and I had to travel three days to pick it up. There was a new suit for me, and cigarettes to sell on the black market. After selling it, I still did not recover the money I spent for the trip.
There was a big election campaign going on in Italy with the Communist Party being one of the biggest contenders. People were afraid, once they would win the elections, there would not be open borders. They would follow the rules of the Eastern block, especially since the cold war was already in progress.
Jack's family joined my mother in the effort to get us out as soon as possible. They advised us to leave the camp and go to live in Rome, so we could be near all the consulates.
In the beginning of November, we left for Rome and rented a room from an Italian family, in a not too expensive neighborhood. We secured new passports from the Polish consulate and were marking time, waiting for developments.
As it turned out, the Communist party lost by a very small margin, but still participated in the new government.
We missed the people from Bari and did not make any new acquaintances here. There was a camp not too far from Rome in Cine-Cita, a former movie studio. Once in a while, somebody we knew from Chortkov would stop in the camp for a short time on their way to Palestine.
Also in Rome, we met those three fellows who caused the stopping of the train in Plashov and us being taken off the transport. One of them was already married to a girl we knew, who was from Tluste and after the liberation, we met her in Chortkov. She was also in our group leaving Cracov and we parted in Bologna.
Her husband had a photo store, owned a motorcycle, and was very friendly to us. They applied for permission to go to Brazil, since he had some family there, and later on they left.
Her name is Lucia Sivek, and three years ago, she visited with us in New Jersey.
November 29, we were overjoyed by the news that the United Nations had voted for partitioning of Palestine. There would be a separate Arab and Jewish State, with the British rule ending by May 15,1948.
People in the displaced persons camps were likewise overjoyed and really celebrated.
Winter was coming to an end, when we received papers from our families to emigrate to Cuba, with a stop-over in New York for a certain period of time. That was the best they could do for us in order to get us out from Italy, and we started to get busy securing the Cuban and American visas.
In April we received the tickets for our voyage to New York on an Italian ship, Vulcania. The ship was leaving from Naples on May 5th, and we made sure to be there few days before departure. We did some sightseeing for a couple of days, and sailed in the early evening of the fifth of May. Throngs of people were waving good-byes to their friends and relatives, but none to us. We waved back anyway, they were good people.
On the ship, we met two fellows from the Bari camp who received student visas for U.S.A. One of them was Jack Honig who resides today in Orange, New Jersey. Their families, evidently, had little better connections.
The cabin that my cousin Jack and I shared was below the water line, with fresh air being pumped in through the vents. Still a better accommodation than the other two fellows had in a dormitory like setting, one level below.
We enjoyed our first dinner on the ship, and afterwards went on the deck, for a while. In the morning however, when I came to the dining room for breakfast, I started to feel dizzy. When the waiter brought my order, I could not look at it.
I left for the cabin to lay down, thinking it would go away. For nine days I could not look at food. They tried everything on me, giving me vodka and crackers, or keeping me on the deck to have fresh air, but nothing helped.
On the third night, we passed through a heavy storm, and I started to feel worse. Jack called for the ship's doctor, and they put me in their hospital.
I received different kinds of pills, and the dizziness subsided a little, but I still could not look at food. They kept me there for five days, and told me to start eating. With Jack's help, I went into the dining room, began to feel bad again, and had to go back to the cabin.
The next day, as we were nearing the American shores, I felt a little better. I went into the bar and had a beer with some smoked herring, and started to get my appetite back. By the early evening, with the shores of Long Island on the horizon, I was able to eat my dinner. They sure saved the food expense on me, eating only the first and last dinner, as I lost 10 kilos (22 lbs) on the voyage.
The next day was Saturday, May 15, 1948, the day the State of Israel was proclaimed. My mother, members of our families, and Jack's families were all waiting at the pier as we arrived in New York.
The same year, my cousin Sandy Freeman introduced me to a lovely girl,
Frances Melamed, from Bergenfield, New Jersey.
After a couple of dates we fell in love and I was privileged yet to meet her father, her two brothers and the rest of the family. (Her mother passed away in 1945.)
We were engaged in October and married the following March 20, 1949, in Brooklyn. We had a very small private wedding, because she was in mourning after her father's death in January.
We now have two lovely daughters, Rosalee and Carol; our sons-in-law Douglas and Daniel, and six grandchildren: Alexander, Elizabeth, and Hillary, Rosalee and Doug's children; Adi, Liran, and Shira, Carol and Danny's children.
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