|Tsivye as a young woman|
Here is what Tsivye recorded about her childhood:
I tell you from my part, like it says in Akdamot: if all the woods, all the trees of the forests of the world would be pens, and all the oceans ink, I wouldn’t be able to write all that happened to us, and how things went. It’s impossible.
First I would like to bring out the memories how World War I started and how this hit us. We were established in a small shtetl called Radymno, where I was born. We were four children. The youngest was Avrum, your uncle, who was then a year and a half. This I can remember very well. When we heard the War broke out and the Russians were coming, we had to flee, because we were told about them very cruel things – that is, which for those days were very cruel; but for what we saw in World War II there’s no comparison. Anyway, I remember my mother standing behind the counter in the store giving whatever… without money, with money … for the Austrian marching soldiers. Our shtetl was in Galicia, and Galicia in those days was part of the Austrian Empire of Kaiser Franz Joseph. My mother cooked for them rice, whatever she could, and gave it out – a few days of war and already they were hungry. Everything was very disorganized.
I remember how we felt that we had to pack up and leave. I never can free myself from this terrible feeling. This was Shabbos morning. Friday night no kiddush, no davening, nothing. With our neighbors and a few other families, we hired a man with horses and buggy. We had our bedding, clothing, a little bit of food. We set out. My older sister and my younger sister Scheindl were crying, they were cold and hungry. I joined in too. The little one was best off, he was bundled up, he was still breast-fed. By the way we saw all kinds of things – marching soldiers, dead horses, houses already ruined, even Austrian soldiers looting – terrible scenes. We arrived in a very small shtetl called Bobov. I remember one lady helped my mother with the children. Our parents didn’t pay attention to what we children wanted; when we demanded something, whether we were right or wrong, they slapped us left and right. Altogether we were three families in a small room. The bedding was spread out on the floor. We slept like dogs. The Jews from this shtetl made some contributions, they took big tables and put them in the schul; whoever was there could go and eat whatever was available. Meanwhile there was a sickness, a small child in the same room died. It was a terrible experience.
Next morning we set out further and further. With difficulties we got on to a train and went to Czechoslovakia. It took a few days and nights until we arrived there. We were among other people from our shtetl and from other shtetls, displaced persons who’d run away from their homes. We were taken to a big hall – I think it was a theater, with a gallery. Everybody was given a place to put their bedding and put up the children. We were fed, supported by the Government.
We stayed there, in Auherzen, for a couple of days. Father went out to look for work, food to feed us. In the nearby town Nyrshan there were some German Jews who supported us. They looked upon us as from above but, you know – Jewish solidarity. So they helped us with clothing and bedding as much as they could.
This was the time before the High Holidays. In Nyrshan there were more families, refugees from Galicia, and they made a minyan. My father took me to measure the distance, if this is within the Shabbos / Yom-Tov tchum – if we can go to the minyan. So it looked like the right length and we went to Nyrshan to daven. We went out early, so there were no incidents. But on the way back we had to pass some other villages – German villages – and we had a rain of stones, and all kinds of dirty words and songs about us. This was my first encounter of how the Gentiles “love” us. It’s indoctrinated in them, in the kids.
In the third year of being in this village, Auherzen, my youngest brother Moshe – or, as we called him, Monye – was born. It was really a plight. Nothing had been prepared for the child. I was his nanny. My mother had enough work to do. Moshe was born before Pessach. It was a belated Pessach: this was a leap year. It was a really hard – Mother couldn’t work to prepare. We did everything possible to help her. How old was I? Eight. My older sister was ten. Moshe was a few months old. The war was at its height, 1916, with no end in sight. Although we were five kids in the family with nothing to live on, Father was called to the army. In the beginning he could exchange this by going to the mines. He went for a couple of months. I remember him holding his lantern leaving home in the morning when it was still dark, and coming home at nightfall all black and dirty from the coals. But this didn’t help too much. After a couple of months he had to go to the army. This was real terrible.
In 1917 we could go home, but we didn’t have a home. In Galicia everything was burnt down. It was very bad, to come back and not to have a place. We went to Lezhensk to my mother’s relatives. We stayed by our uncle, then another uncle. Finally we got a little room and we moved in. We had no furniture, nothing in the house. But one thing I remember is that my parents saw to it that we never starved. What kind of food – it doesn’t matter – but food in the house, there should be no hunger.
When the war was over Father came back. We had to start all over again. We found a bigger apartment – not really an apartment – a room: the kitchen, the stove, everything was in one room. All five of us children and the parents lived in one room. We looked around for a way to have a livelihood. Our parents started to work very hard to buy grain and eggs and butter and to resell them. The time came to go to school, but there were almost no books. We had to buy paper – not white paper, but very plain paper, a few leaves sewn together. And that’s all we had for our first years of school. A few kids had one book – not always was this book available even to a few kids. So we had to wait for our turn to use the book to do our homework. And at school our teachers didn’t want to know about anything, the lessons had to be done.
I forgot to mention what changes took place after the war. Austria fell apart. In place of Austria little nations became independent, among them Poland. Poland had been divided 125 years between Austria, Germany and Russia. The peace treaty at Versailles declared Poland independent. How to celebrate independence? How can a nation celebrate independence? By beating up Jews. Why? No reason – for hitting Jews there doesn’t have to be any reason. They just felt very happy. So we had to hide again like mice in their mouse holes. This took quite a few months until everything got quieted down. It was a terrible experience. The first Prime Minister Pilsudski helped to quiet down those hooligans. Quite a few of them were punished. There was a pogrom in little shtetls like Strzyzow, where Meyer came from, and other shtetls. There were even a lot dead. But he, Pilsudski, somehow made them quiet down
Then there came inflation, and everything was so expensive. We wanted to come forward in the world, have a bigger apartment, more material things, but it was very hard. My uncle, Mother’s brother, lived in Frankfurt-am-Main; he used to send us money and clothes from his children. This was a big support. It took quite a few years until our parents and we got on our feet.
It would be a too big task to tell how the winters went on without proper heat and clothing, and what kind of dresses we wore and what kind of food we ate. Dresses – the oldest had the new dress, then we used to make from the old new and hand it down. I don’t know if anybody can imagine how this went. But one thing I can take credit: there were no complaints, anything we got we were very happy. We looked healthy. And any time we got something it was a big holiday.