Renia: A Holocaust Memoir

Table of Contents

The supermarket where my sister worked as a bookkeeper had a better cafeteria than we did and they got better lunches. She always brought some of her lunch home for me. She’d take a couple of bites and put the rest in a bag for later. If somebody offered her a candy, she took a little bite and brought the rest home. She was like a mother to me. A friend of ours was a cook in another cafeteria Sometimes she used to tell me to come when she was on duty and she would sneak me a little soup.

It took some months before we could leave Yoshkar-Ola. Then we were put on a freight car headed for Poland but it took us several weeks to get there, another journey that seemed to go on forever. The trip was hard. We were hungry. Somehow we’d made a little peace with my aunt and her family; we travelled on the same train with them.

As on previous trips, the train would stop so we could go to the bathroom — in front of everyone. We made jokes about it. Sometimes, we stole feed from horse wagons along the way. At some stations we saw other trains and met people we knew from back home. To keep warm, we took pieces of coal from freight cars standing in the station; we had a little coal furnace with a chimney in our car. It served double duty because whoever had something to eat, a few potatoes or whatever, we cooked on the stove. We’d take turns at night, watching the fire.

There were about twenty-five people in our freight car, Polish Jews who had survived the war. The beds were shelves attached to the walls. Strangers would share the same beds. We didn’t change our clothes at all during this time. In the middle of the night if you had to go to the bathroom, you did it in a jar and then threw it out a little window.

For the girl travelling the opposite way a few years earlier, the trip had been something of an adventure. For the nineteen-year-old woman now coming back to Poland, it wasn’t any fun at all. I’d left my parents’ graves behind me — one so very far away in Asia I’m sure I would never be able to find it. I’m not even sure I could find my mother’s grave, which had just a little tin marker on it.

Finally, around Pesach time, they dropped our freight car off in Jelenia Góra, a lovely area not far from the border with Czechoslovakia. It’s quite mountainous; people go there for vacations. I didn’t know it at the time but this is where I would start my life again.

Chapter 4 > 
  


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