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elvira kohn

I attended public school, the regular elementary and high school in Vinkovci. There was no Jewish school. There were pupils of all kinds of religions and nationalities in this school and my friends were Jews and non- Jews alike. In my class in particular, there were 30 pupils, of which 13 were Jews, around 10 Eastern Orthodox because there were many Serb villages around Vinkovci, and the rest were Catholics and maybe some Evangelic.

Although there was no Jewish school, there was Jewish religious instruction, which was obligatory. Every Sunday we had religious classes and received grades; it was part of the school curriculum. We had a religious instructor whose name was Pollak. He taught us Hebrew, the Talmud, the Torah, some Jewish history and traditions.

On Saturdays we didn't have to attend classes in school, but we had to go to the synagogue. We also had to obtain a written statement signed by Rabbi Frankfurter saying that we were at the service on Saturday morning, and we had to bring this statement to school. It was like a confirmation that we were in the synagogue instead of being in class.
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Jankiel Kulawiec

My daughter went to a secular Jewish school, first to a vocational hairdressing school and then to a high school.
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Mico Alvo

Grandfather Haim loved all his children. Grandmother had a preference for my father and Olga, who was born just after him.

Their eldest son, Joseph Alvo, first went to school at the Talmud Torah and later on, I think, he also went to the Alliance school [7]. I don't know why he and my father were in the same grade at school despite the fact that Joseph was two years older. I could never figure this out. Did his parents send him to school later than the rest? Was he perhaps sickly and that's why they didn't send him straight away? I really don't know.
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My paternal grandfather was called Haim Alvo. I don't remember when he was born. I think he died when he was seventy years old, in 1937 or 1938. He went to both a Turkish and a Greek school, and the religious school where rabbis used to teach. It was called Talmud Torah. He spoke Turkish fluently.
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My maternal grandfather was called Daniel. I think he died around 1949 and he was about 80 years old then. His first wife was Rosa. Her maiden name was Gattegno. Rosa died very young from kidney problems, when my mother was around 15 or 16 years old. It must have been around 1913-1914, at the beginning of World War I. His second wife was Rosa's sister, Mathilde. There was a big age difference between Rosa and Mathilde. They were nine siblings. Rosa was the third one. Mathilde was the eighth one. Mathilde was about my father's age. She died in Canada, in 1973. Her daughter had immigrated to Canada and she followed her.

Grandfather Daniel Saltiel went to school. He went to a Turkish school, but he probably learned more in the Jewish school.

Daniel's first business was to sell and place windows. He used to say that he had fit all the windows of the warehouses at the old railway station. He then changed his profession and became a lumber merchant. That was when I was around ten years old or maybe even younger.

When he grew older, he said that he couldn't carry glass and climb up anymore. So he started as a lumber merchant and did really well. He mostly brought wood from Romania and Yugoslavia, and the top quality wood they were bringing from Sweden.

Grandfather wasn't the first one in the business, but he was good. He worked hard; he would travel for business especially around eastern Macedonia. Many times he also went to Balkan countries for supplies. He would travel to Romania and Yugoslavia very often. His employees were an accountant and a porter. They were both Jewish.

He first opened a shop on Aggelaki Street. That's where his shop was. That area is where the brothels were, but also the wood suppliers. When Aggelaki Street changed and became a busy street, all the wood suppliers moved from that area to the old railway station.
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Krystyna Budnicka

I stayed there until I was six, when I started school. The school was located on Barokowa Street, next to Krasinski Park, and it was a Jewish school with instruction in Polish. There was a religious studies class, and I remember a gentleman who was probably grade tutor and wore a smock frock and oversleeves; he must have taught all the subjects. I remember a handbook for the religious studies class, it was called Little Biblical History. I don't recall whether only girls or both girls and boys studied at this school. I was there for just one school year.
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Janina Duda

I started going to school when I was six years old. The school was Gutman’s gymnasium [lyceum] in Bialystok. I even remember how we exercised standing on the desks. And one girl peed on that desk, she couldn’t stand it, we were laughing so hard. This school system looked like this then [in the 1920s]: a sub-elementary level, then elementary, then eight grades of gymnasium and the 8th one was the one when you took final exams. So there were ten years of schooling in total before the final exams. Then, in the 1930s, this system was changed, but it’s hard for me to say what it looked like later. So when we came to Lublin there was this issue of what to do with my education. I was then ten or eleven years old. It was in the middle of the school year, so probably I’d have to repeat a grade, I don’t remember which one, 2nd or 3rd grade of gymnasium.

Well, and you’d have to pay for that. So it was decided that I’d go to a public school. And I went to a school, whose principal was Mrs. Mandelkernowa. It was a very good school, on Lubartowska Street. When I graduated from this school I went to a humanities gymnasium in Lublin. It was also a gymnasium, where nothing was taught about Jewry. There were public gymnasia in Lublin, government officials, officers sent their children there. Wealthier people, who could afford to pay, rather wealthy. Jews also attended these gymnasia, but there were very few. These were also private gymnasia, Polish ones, and many Jews attended them, for example Czarniecka’s gymnasium or Arciszowa’s gymnasium for girls, Staszic for boys. And there were two Jewish gymnasia [in Lublin]: Szperowa’s, where my sister went, and the humanities gymnasium which was operated by some Jewish association, it wasn’t a private school, so it was less expensive.

I studied a lot of Latin then, a lot of history, the standards were indeed quite high. I also took French then. It was an obligatory foreign language and, I have to say, these basics which I learned at school were very solid, I can still speak French fluently. But I didn’t get my diploma then. Father was unemployed, you then had to pay for tutors, to be well prepared for the finals. So I decided: I can’t take the finals, because I don’t have enough money. I told Mother and Father. Especially Father was very saddened. He used to say, ‘My children, my daughters, what can I leave you but an education.’ At that time you wouldn’t say ‘Dad’, but ‘Papa’. So I would answer, ‘Papa, but all I do is sit on the other side of the door [the pupil that could not participate in the lessons without paying tuition sat in the hallway, on the other side of the classroom door, where she could at least hear the lessons], you have to pay for everything and you don’t have the money for that.’ And I explained, ‘I will still have time to study if I want to.
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Lily Arouch

My grandchildren in Athens are less involved in Jewish life, as they live far from the center, although their parents are active community members. My granddaughters are not very religious or traditional but it doesn't bother me, as parents are the ones to judge what is best for their own children. All my grandchildren attended the Jewish elementary school.
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There was a very active Jewish community in Thessalonica. When I say active I mean it had many charity institutions to help the poor; as the community was so big, it had people from all social classes. There were lots of poor people, entire neighborhoods, and I know that the community would take care of them. It had institutions, old people's homes, orphanages, institutions for poor girls. There was also a big hospital named HIRS that was built by Baron Hirs, who was known throughout the Balkans. It was a big hospital and I think it still exists. There was the Mair Aboav; I think that was the name of the orphanage, Matanot Levionim [8], the Saoul Modiano care home.

I don't know how many rabbis there were in Thessalonica, or if there was a shochet or chazzan. There were Jewish schools, but my sisters and I didn't go there, so I don't know how many Jewish schools existed.

I don't remember the political atmosphere so much as I was too young. Before I was born there was a fire in Cambel. This group that was called 3E [9] had burnt a whole area but that was either before I was born or when I was really young.
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Henrich Kurizkes

After getting married, my parents rented an apartment in the house owned by Sweetgauer, a Jewish man. My father worked and my mother was a housewife. I was born in 1924, and I was the only child in the family. Shortly after I was born my parents moved to Raua Street, near where their parents lived. We lived there until the town authorities decided to build a fire station on that site. The house was to be removed, and my parents rented an apartment nearby. We lived in this apartment until the very start of the Great Patriotic War [11].

We spoke Yiddish and Russian at home. My parents mostly spoke Russian to me, but it took me no time to pick up some Yiddish. Children are good at languages.

The Tallinn Jewish gymnasium [12] was located not far from our home and my father wanted me to study in this school. However, I fell very ill when I was six. I had an inflammation of the ear which led to complications with a blood infection. There were no antibiotics at the time, but the doctors managed to cure me. Having spent a while in the hospital, I couldn't attend the Jewish kindergarten where children studied the basics of Hebrew.

The director of the school refused to admit me to the Hebrew class without my knowing Hebrew. He suggested that I went to the Yiddish class. I knew Yiddish well, but my father was against it. Maybe the Yiddish class, in my father's opinion, was associated with Yiddishists [13], and he quite disapproved of them. So I went to the private Russian school.
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jerzy pikielny

I didn't go to school until third grade because I was always ill, I often had bronchitis. At first I went to a private co- educational school called 'Our School.' Most of the students were Jewish. Two Jewish women ran it. We had teas with our class tutor in her apartment. We spoke with her about almost everything. I don't remember her name, unfortunately. At 'Our School' we spoke freely with the teachers about the opposite sex, something unthinkable at the all-male school I later attended.

Naturally, the classes at 'Our School' were given in Polish. There were religion classes, which dealt mainly with Jewish history. I don't remember the names of the teachers. I do remember some of my classmates, though.
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Romek, who was older than me, went to a Hebrew gymnasium in Lodz; he commuted there every day from Zdunska Wola.
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danuta mniewska

I went to gymnasium automatically - upon completing six grades, when I was 13. It was the Eugenia Jaszunska School at 18 Poludniowa Street [presently Rewolucji 1905 Roku Street], on the other side of Piotrkowska, not far from where we lived. The classes started at 8am and ended at 2pm, there was no school on Saturdays. The students - only Jews, thirty-something girls in the class. The building was a tenement house, a three-story one, I think, which had been converted to a school. That was the kind of school that the average man could afford.

The headmistress I remember as a very old lady. The deputy headmaster and math teacher was called Cyrusz. Mr. Jackel taught German - a great teacher. There was also Hebrew and religion, unnecessarily, because we tormented the teacher so hard I actually pitied him. His name was Hurwicz. He had to earn his living and here no one wanted to even think about Hebrew and religion, we teased him terribly. It was complete mockery, really.

I really didn't like to study. I had to be given private lessons. My sister was the same. We were in the same class because I skipped one grade in elementary school. Our father always complained, 'We're paying so much for your education and you don't want to study.' It was thirty zlotys a month. When you had two children to pay for, it was a very substantial expense.

You also had to pay for the private lessons, of course. The coach taught us everything, she was our distant maternal-side cousin, Regina Milichtajch. A very talented and diligent girl, she completed the renowned Ab Gymnasium at Zielona Street [Jozef Lajb Ab (1863-1941): educator; founder, owner and headmaster of the Girls' School of Commerce, converted 1918 into an arts- oriented Girls' Gymnasium, named after him from 1931, and awarded official gymnasium status in 1938]. Jewish kids went there, but all the classes, of course, were in Polish. Regina was a great student, and her parents were poor. So it meant a lot to her to be able to earn the extra few zlotys.
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Halina Leszczynska

Then the war broke out [15] and it was very hard, not just for us, but for everyone. There were no notebooks. You had to write on newspapers, but there also weren't enough newspapers. When the ZPP [16] was created, we received newspapers, they sent us 'Nowe Widnokregi' ['New Horizons'] and 'Wolna Polska' [ 'Free Poland'], so we had something to write on then. Because you literally had to write on old books, between the lines... We had nothing. To get ink, you'd buy an old pencil at the market, smash it up, mix it with water and that's how you got ink.
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I went to a Jewish preschool and later to a Jewish public school, Medem's school, a Bundist [2] one, that is one with leftist traditions, so there was no religion there. I was an average student, I never put much effort into studying. My school was on Cegielniana Street, it was in a regular tenement house. I don't remember if we even took up an entire floor. I know the school cost several hundred zloty per month, that was the tuition, you had to pay. At least that's what I remember. I don't know exactly.
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