Renia: A Holocaust Memoir
Table of Contents

Leon, Rick and I.

Leon, Rick and I.

One thing Leon could never tolerate was throwing out food. He wasn’t cheap; in fact, he was very generous. Nothing was too good for me or the children. But his war experiences had taught him how important even a crumb of food could be. If there was food to be disposed of, I would wait until he was out of the house and only then would I get rid of it.

I don’t remember our experiencing anti-Semitism during this period. We had non-Jewish neighbours in the apartment where we lived. We celebrated their holidays with them; they celebrated ours with us. And it was fun. I didn’t and don’t keep kosher. But I did go to the synagogue on Yom Kippur and Rosh Hashanah to say yiskor, the prayer for the dead. Passover was the the one time of year when I especially felt the pull of tradition and bought everything kosher and had separate dishes. It made me feel good and brought back happy memories of when I was a girl in Bydgoszcz. For the same reason, I still light candles on Friday.

Rick, Leon and Eva in Jelenia Gora.

Rick, Leon and Eva in Jelenia Gora.

Most of the time I stayed home with Eva and Rick. (Rick started school in 1955, when he was seven.) We had a girl who used to come and play with the kids or babysit if Leon and I went out. We would go out with friends to night-clubs, dancing, or to the theatre, or to movies. In summer, we went to a seaside resort; in winter, we went skiing. Leon and I spoke mostly Polish at home. Although he was fluent in Yiddish, I wasn’t. But we did speak a little Yiddish when we didn’t want the children to understand.

Life was good. We were not wealthy but we were quite comfortable. I didn’t lack for anything. Our house was always open to family and friends. Leon was known in town and was liked and respected. He expanded his business; it now made big windows for stores and mirrors. I still have some of the formulas. And he’d invested in another business with his cousin Dora and others, dealing in fur pelts. It was called Futropol. The Communist regime still allowed small businesses to exist.

Dora, Leon and a stuffed bear in front of Futropol.

Dora, Leon and a stuffed bear in front of Futropol.

The state of Israel had been created in May 1948, just six months before Rick was born. I remember how excited we all were. In 1950, my sister Gitta and her husband, Josef, left for Israel with their four-month-old baby, Mira — she’d been named after my mother. Mira had been born on March 29, 1950. I was devastated when Gitta left; I missed her terribly. We’d never before been separated by more than a few miles. I felt still worse when a few months after their arrival in Israel, Mira died of what we later learned was Tay Sachs disease. I wish I could have been there to comfort Gitta the way she had comforted me so many times in the past.

Leon and I had also applied to go to Israel but the authorities kept turning us down. It was never clear why. We kept asking until 1957, when they finally gave us permission to leave.

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