Renia: A Holocaust Memoir

Table of Contents

Our wedding day, September 14, 1982.

Our wedding day, September 14, 1982.

In the spring of 1941, Sam, Bella and Toby moved to Kharkov, where there was a larger Jewish community. But shortly after they arrived, the Germans invaded Russia and again they had to flee. They moved from place to place, finally ending up back in Barnaul, where Menashe had remained. After the war, the four of them returned to Poland in search of survivors. They found none. They remained in Poland until 1950, when at the urging of Bella, they moved to Israel. But like Leon and me, they found life in Israel hard and in late 1951, they emigrated to Canada.

And so that’s how it began. Sam would come over, we’d go for a walk, have coffee. Sometimes he’d come for dinner. For years, I hadn’t been in the habit of doing much cooking. I wasn’t looking for anyone. I was content to leave things as they were. But at some point in 1982, Sam started talking about the possibility of marriage. At first I was scared. I liked him. But I said no, let’s leave things as they are. I kept putting him off. His younger daughter, Lily, was pregnant at the time with Brooke. I told him, “Let Lily have her baby and then we’ll see.” But even before the baby was born, we decided that, yes, we would get married.

On holiday with Sam.

On holiday with Sam.

Lily had her baby and named her Brooke — she was named after Bella — and from the day she was born, she and I have had a very special relationship. Sam and I decided on a wedding date, September 14, and then told each other’s children of our plans. I told Toby and Lily that I could never replace their mother and didn’t wish to. I wanted to be their friend, I said; I was there for them if there was ever anything I could do. Toby was kind enough to say, “My father is lucky to be marrying you; indeed, we’re happy it’s you he’s chosen.” And she added, “If sometimes you see us shedding a tear for our mother, remember, it has nothing to do with our feelings toward you.” I understood. I too had lost a mother.

Sam, in turn, talked to my kids. They were happy for us; they liked him a lot. We married at the rabbi’s house, with our four children holding up the chupa, the canopy. Later, our children, our grandchildren and a few close friends had dinner at the Prince Hotel. Rosh Hashanah was coming and I thought it might be easier for our children if we went away that first year. We wanted to make the transition as easy as possible for them and for us. So we went to Aruba for two weeks.

The two of us discovered that it is possible for a sixty-five year old man and a fifty-five year old woman to have another chance in life and find love again. Sometimes we would lie in bed holding hands, telling each other how lucky we were, hoping our children could understand.

We decided to live at my house at 97 Denlow Boulevard. Rick and Eva were now living on their own. Sam put his house up for sale. But he wanted to have something from his house in the house on Denlow and suggested bringing his dining room set. I didn’t like the idea at first. I was afraid his children would feel bad when they came for dinner and were reminded of the happy times they’d shared at their mother’s table. But Toby came to see me and helped me understand that it would please her father — and his children — a great deal. I agreed and I am happy that I did.

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