Renia: A Holocaust Memoir

Table of Contents

I don’t remember any of the details of what happened next. All I know is that I called Morris and he came to Rochester and returned to Toronto with Alina and me and Leon’s remains. At the airport in Toronto we met Molly Ross, who having heard the sad news, had immediately flown in from Chicago. We buried Leon in the Beth Tzedec cemetery on Bathurst Street. Peter and Rick bought the plot and made all the arrangements.

Eva and Rick at Leon's graveside.

Eva and Rick at Leon's graveside.

After the funeral, Rick, who was then just twenty-four, transferred his credits to the University of Toronto and took over the running of the business. He managed to finish his engineering degree while supporting our family. Two houses were under construction when Leon died and just the frames were standing. We couldn’t just leave them; we owed money. Peter helped us, but he had his own business to look after.

When Leon died, Eva was living at home and studying criminology at Seneca College. She was so broken up about her father’s death that she couldn’t concentrate at school. I went to see her school counsellor and he thought it might be better if she dropped out for a while. Some close friends, Gina and Adi Kolber, who owned a dress store, hired her to help out. They picked her up every day and brought her home. They helped her — and me — a lot.

Late that fall, Rick, Eva and I drove to Chicago to obtain a work permit for Rick since he was still an American citizen. We’d been granted a Minister’s Permit on compassionate grounds but the paperwork had to be completed outside Canada. At the time, Rick owned a powder blue Volkswagon Beetle. On the outskirts of London, Ontario, we had a blow-out. The car turned over two or three times, but somehow Rick manoeuvered us into a ditch, all of us upside down, hanging in our seats by our seatbelts. We were lucky to be alive.

On the way out of town, when Rick stopped at the construction site, Peter had suggested we put concrete blocks in the trunk to make the car heavier because of the possibility of snow. And Rick insisted that everybody had to wear a seatbelt, even though it wasn’t yet required by law. I was sitting in front with Rick; Rick’s friend, Jack Levin, and Eva were in the back. When they refused to put their seatbelts on, Rick stopped the car and said, “Put the seatbelts on.” I distinctly remember that.

Rick’s car was a total write-off. We were taken by ambulance to Victoria Hospital in London, Ontario. Nothing serious had happened to any of us but we were all in shock. I had a few scratches on my nose because my glasses had broken. We all looked awful in our torn clothes.

Rick called his Uncle Morris who was expecting us in Chicago to let him know what had happened. Then we caught a flight from London to Detroit and from Detroit to Chicago. To get to Chicago, we had to separate; there were two seats available on one plane and two on another. The plane carrying Eva and me got stuck over the airport in Chicago for about an hour-and-a-half and Eva became hysterical. She was certain that this was her day to die and since she hadn’t died in the car accident, she was going to die in the plane. The stewardesses had to calm her down.

In Chicago, we got the papers we needed, but now Rick became ill as a result of the shock of everything that had happened. He had a high fever and was so sick that we had to stay for a couple of weeks with Molly Ross. We were all in bad shape emotionally. As soon as he was feeling well enough, Rick bought a car in Chicago and we drove back to Toronto.

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