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elvira kohn

My grandfather wanted us to speak German in the house since that was his mother tongue. My grandmother spoke Croatian with us and he was displeased when we spoke Croatian and didn't speak German. However, we mostly spoke Croatian in the house. For Jewish expressions we used the Yiddish pronunciation; for example, we said Shabos [Sabbath] barhes [challah], matzos [matzah].
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baby pisetskaya

In total, they had nine children. They were all raised religiously and spoke Yiddish.
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Jankiel Kulawiec

At home we spoke only Yiddish. But at school I learned to read and write in Polish, and my cousin Dowa taught me to read and write in Yiddish. Though how she knew, that I don't know.
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nisim navon

Like many people in Pristina at the time, we had a Turkish-speaking maid
who came to our house every day, so we also spoke Turkish as children. At
home, we spoke Ladino, and in school, Serbo-Croatian.
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Mico Alvo

My grandmother's sister Mathilde was the same age as my father. My father was born in 1889, she must have been born either in 1890 or in 1888, sometime around then. There was a big age difference with Daniel. Mathilde had a daughter from another marriage.

Grandfather was widowed, she too, and so they got married. It was then a custom to marry the sister of your wife, if both of you were left widowed. And even the Jewish religion suggests doing so. The religion says that if your brother dies and his wife becomes a widow, someone from the family should marry her in order to maintain her.

Mathilde Gattegno spoke Ladino really well and French fluently. She also spoke Greek, but not as well. She couldn't write in Greek, but she spoke it, especially because most of her maids were Greek. She didn't speak any Turkish. She went to school at the Alliance where she learned French.

Before she got married, during World War I, when the allies were here, she opened, or rather the family opened, a shop for her in which she sold souvenirs for the soldiers. And it did really well. She was pretty and she spoke French, which was something that the soldiers couldn't find everywhere.

At the time of World War I, many women started working out of necessity. They would sell things like that; they would do the easy work. After she became a widow, and maybe also before she got married, she worked at her brother's school, the Gattegno.

Mathilde used to speak about World War I while my mother didn't. I remember that they had in their house all sorts of flags, because once the English would come around, then the French, then the Italians, and then the Romanians.

She got married to Grandfather Daniel after the Great Fire. They were already married when I was born, because I remember they left me with them when I was one year old, and that they got married before my uncle and before my father. I think that my father was already married in 1920.
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As I mentioned before, Bella was born in Malta, not in Thessaloniki. Her family was Maltese. She spoke English, because Malta was something like a British colony then. They were British citizens. Only much later did they come to Greece.

They survived [World War II] because they left for Israel [then Palestine]. Her other siblings though, who didn't go to Palestine and stayed here and opened a business, when we were at war with the Italians [8], the British ships came and took them to the Middle East since they had British citizenship.
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My grandmother was completely illiterate but had a practical mind. She had a great impact as the head of the family. In Jewish families the women were really the mater familias. They would run the place. Rachel knew a few Turkish words and Ladino [1]. That was it. She later learned Greek because she had maids that were Greek. And she picked it up from her maids. Rachel started having a maid when she got too many children.
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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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The school was a 'préparatoire,' which means preparatory and which is what we now call elementary school. I went there until the third grade. We had small tables with small chairs where we would all sit. We had a French teacher who was specialized in small children. I remember her, her name was Madame Doze. She was very competent with young children. How she managed to hold our interest and teach us things in there for so many hours, I don't know.

All the lessons were being held in French. There were about twenty of us in a class, boys and girls, and we had the same teacher for all the different subjects. In the beginning when we were all little and until the third grade, we would have classes from 9 in the morning until 12 or 1 in the afternoon, or something like that, I don't remember the exact time schedule.

We would have classes on many different subjects, as they do in elementary schools. To learn the language, the letters and the alphabet, they would ask us to write whole pages with 'a' or 'b', or numbers. They didn't teach us Judeo-Spanish at all.

The French school wasn't a religious one. There was no Hebrew or religion being taught. We didn't have a morning prayer; the first time that we had a morning prayer was when I went to Schina's School. Most of my classmates were Jews. Out of the twenty students, only four or five were not Jews.
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Didi has a really good approach to various things. All the time that she worked for the airline company, she knew many languages and everyone loved her very much. The customers would bring her presents. Especially because she could speak Spanish, French and Italian and she would speak to them in their mother-tongue.

As Didi was growing up she learned Greek, French and English. She learned English at school. Spanish she learned by speaking to her grandparents. Mari's parents were speaking Spanish, so she learned it, too.
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We grew up learning three languages. Our maids were usually Greek, and they were the ones that we would speak Greek with. We spoke French to our parents and they spoke Spanish to each other. With Grandmother and Grandfather we spoke Spanish. With both the grandfathers, but Grandfather Daniel also knew French. Not well, but he spoke it. While my paternal grandfather Haim didn't know French at all. We mostly spoke in French. I started developing my Greek when I went to elementary school.

You cannot imagine how many Greeks, Christians, spoke Ladino better than me! They couldn't work in trade if they didn't. Even the high society spoke Ladino, not only the employees, but also the shop owners.
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My mother was born in 1901 in Thessaloniki. She went to the Gattegno school, I think, or to the Alliance, or both. Maybe she went first to the Alliance and later to the Gattegno. She went to elementary and secondary school for twelve years. Maybe high school was fewer years back then - I don't know if it was six years then or three. She knew Ladino, French and Greek very well. She spoke French very well. She learned Greek by practicing it. Maybe they did learn some Greek at school.

I remember that we always had Greek maids. I think that their fathers trusted the Jewish housewives very much, more so than the Christian ones, for their girls to become maids. They trusted them in the sense that they wouldn't let them take the wrong direction, as we had very strict principles and they were treated fairly.
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What the Greeks really didn't like at the time was that the Jews would speak Spanish and French to each other. And they used to say, 'But you are Greeks, why do you speak in another language?' And they couldn't understand that this is how they were brought up. They weren't Greeks; they suddenly became Greeks. They lived in Greece but Thessaloniki was then Turkish, it wasn't Greek, which the others couldn't understand. And the truth is that the Jews didn't know Greek. Since they hadn't been taught the language, how could they have known it? This brought some friction between them at the beginning.

Until 1940 relations between Christians and Jews were a bit tense. Not between the children, because the children that were going to school then started learning Greek anyway. The teachers were proud that the Jews were learning Greek. Then they started getting jealous because they would learn Greek better than the Christians. However, most of the tension was created by the generation of my parents. I could feel it. Many times on the tram I could hear two men speaking to each other in French and someone saying to them, 'Why are you speaking in French? Aren't you Greek?

You couldn't make them understand that when they grew up this wasn't Greece. My father spoke about incidents like that with my mother. There was a time when anti-Semitism grew, especially here in Thessaloniki. Not so much in other places in Greece, but mostly here in Thessaloniki. When the events took place. When Metaxas [32] came, everything stopped.
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Sento was born around 1898. He went to Alliance as well. He finished high school in Alliance. He knew French very well; he also knew Greek and Ladino. I think he also attended German classes. Many of the Jews here spoke German at the time.

Sento got married when my father got married, around 1920. His wife's name was Mathilde Gattegno. The name of her father, his father-in-law, was Moshe Gattegno. The father of Mathilde, Moshe Gattegno, was the brother of my grandmother Rosa. So Sento and Mathilde were first degree cousins. The mother of Mathilde was from the Sadok family who were a very well known aristocratic family.

It was quite common to have marriages among relatives at the time. The other daughter, Lily, got married to another cousin, Modiano. And in fact they used to say that they will get them married since we were very young.

This way they used to influence one a great deal. There were financial issues as well. They were saying this in order to keep the money within the family. Not to let it go into other hands. Because they would give dowries then, they would have marriage agreements, which were taxed by the Community. I remember Grandfather Daniel gave 1,500 sovereigns for each of his daughters as a dowry. For the youngest one, Ida, he even gave more. He gave her 2,000 because she was the youngest, and his favorite. His sons-in- law would tease him and say to him that he cheated on them and gave them less money.
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