Renia: A Holocaust Memoir

Table of Contents

Gitta in Toronto, 1970.

Gitta in Toronto, 1970.

Gitta had visited us not long before Leon died, so she didn’t come to the funeral. On top of that, she wasn’t well. She’d had a heart problem for some years and it had become worse after all the tragedies she’d endured — the deaths of our parents, of two children and a husband.

In 1975, Gitta sent me money so that I could come to Israel. I hadn’t seen her for three years and I hadn’t been in Israel since we’d left for Chicago. I went in the spring, a very beautiful time of year. The moment I got off the plane, I could smell the orange blossoms and felt at home. It was good being back. At that time, Gitta was living in Tel Aviv where Moshe, her second husband, had an apartment.

Gitta and me in Israel.

Gitta and me in Israel.

Gitta had worked for years in the city hall water works department (mifal hamaim) as an accountant and when the man in charge died, she became head of the department. Water, which is in short supply, is crucial to the life of Israel. It was a very responsible job. Gitta was liked and respected by her co-workers, indeed by everyone who knew her.

My reunion with Gitta was quite emotional. We spent every waking minute together, travelling, talking, crying, laughing. We went to the Dead Sea and stayed at Ein-Gedi Kibbutz. Gitta and Moshe had a subscription to the Israeli Symphony and he kindly gave up his tickets so she and I could go. Although I knew opera and operettas from our days in Jelenia Góra, it was my first experience of the symphonic repertoire. It was wonderful. [more photos from Israel]

When I returned home to the house in Thornhill, where Rick and Eva were still living, I went back to work, but I felt down. I think I felt down for years after Leon’s death even though everyone I knew did everything they could to cheer me up.

Gitta and Moshe in Toronto, 1970.

Gitta and Moshe in Toronto, 1970.

In 1978, Moshe died; he just collapsed. He’d been out walking and had a heart attack. I wasn’t able to go to Israel immediately. But I was in almost daily contact with Gitta. She moved back to Kfar Saba, where she worked and had close friends, but we began talking about the possibility of her moving to Toronto, to be with us six months of the year.

When I went to Israel a few months later, Gitta wasn’t well. We went from one doctor to another. I was supposed to stay six weeks and then we were to return to Toronto together. She was still considering the idea of living in Canada part of the year. But if she moved, she wanted a place of her own.

One night — it was July 13, 1978 — we were sitting at the table and she collapsed on the floor with a heart attack. I opened the door and began to scream for help. Gitta didn’t have a phone; she was waiting for one to be installed. At that time it was still hard to get a phone. I screamed so loudly, I lost my voice. People came and they took her by ambulance to the hospital but she was dead before she arrived. She was just fifty-eight. She’d died on the anniversary of our mother’s death.

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