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elvira kohn

My mother came to Zagreb, along with the hospital and the pharmaceuticals, three weeks after me. In the meantime, I stayed with a friend from Dubrovnik, a non-Jewess, in a house on Buliceva Street. When my mother came, I found a bigger apartment for the two of us, and we moved to Stanciceva Street. After the war, the defense and army headquarters of the JNA [10] was formed, and I was appointed by the supreme headquarters of Croatia to work in the newly established defense and army headquarters.

At first, I had to organize the photo laboratory, collect the necessary equipment, cameras, and so on in order for the photo department to function. I also gathered the people who worked with me, as I soon became head of the photo department. I supervised the work of others in my department but I also took photos myself. My love for photography and for capturing important and interesting moments was still very strong.

I usually attended party meetings and took photographs; there were various events that took place, like meetings or celebrations of 8th March, 1st May, 25th May [11] and other party celebrations or commemorations. I had to travel a lot and I was really quite busy, but I enjoyed doing my work. I was very lucky to having found a profession that I loved.

In my work, I often met JNA officials and important people; once I met Josip Broz Tito [12]. The photos that I took were mostly published in local newspapers, such as Vjesnik and Naprijed. Often, I took photos for my own pleasure: shots of nature, the people that I loved, my friends.

I continued taking photos of small children, usually my friends' or just children that I saw on the streets. Even after I retired in 1964, I continued taking photographs privately and enjoying photography as an art form. I donated my photographs and negatives to the Croatian History Museum, and they are still kept there today.

I never married. It is my love for photography that should be blamed for this. I was always away; I spent three days in Zagreb, then five days on a trip working, then I was in Zagreb again, then working away again. It was hard to find someone who would have tolerated this! One suitor once told me, 'You love your camera more than you love me!' True, I loved my work, and I dedicated myself and my whole heart to it.
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Each one of us had his duties and knew what he/she was supposed to do. I knew exactly what took place when and where, in terms of meetings, conferences, events, campaigns, and I followed the schedule. I was the only female photo-reporter within ZAVNOH. There were two other male photo-reporters, but sometimes there were called in for other duties, so there were times when I was the only photo-reporter for ZAVNOH.

After the supreme headquarters formed their own public-relations department, I started to work for them, and I stayed there until the war was over.

For a while we stayed in Topusko and were about to start the preparations for celebrating 8th March [International Women's Day]. However, we received the order to move to Zadar. Zadar was terribly bombed, but liberated, and so we were given orders to reach Zadar.

After we packed our belongings, we set out on our journey from Topusko to Zadar. In front of us was a Russian military mission, the English and the Americans, and each had flags on their trucks. And, again, the day was sunny and clear, the Germans saw the truck convoy and started bombing. When we were forming our convoy, each truck had a number; each department received a number and had to load the truck with the corresponding number.
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Throughout the whole time of our imprisonment in the camp, I had my camera with me. I managed to hide it when we arrived in the camp even though we had to submit all of our belongings to a detailed search. But, apart from the initial search, I had to continue to hide the camera because the Italians searched our barracks almost every day.

We, the inmates, figured out the system although it was very risky. We informed each other when and where the search began so if the search began in barrack number 1 that meant that barrack number 1 was clear.

One of the informers ran to let the others know, who then let me know, and then I sent the camera through others to barrack number 1 that had already been checked. So my camera was always in a different place and the Italians never found it, thanks to good communications and good relations among the inmates.

I didn't take any photos during our imprisonment because that would have been too dangerous. I wasn't, of course, allowed to do it and, had they caught me, I could have been in great trouble so I never even tried.
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I didn't feel much anti-Semitism in Dubrovnik before the war. Perhaps right before the war started, anti-Semitism was felt more individually than collectively. My boss, Miho Ercegovic, had one partner named Gesel. This Mr. Gesel told my boss that he must fire whoever was Jewish. He knew I was Jewish.

So my boss, who was very inclined to me, had to fire me but he did so only officially so that he wouldn't get into trouble. He still let me work 'unofficially' for him and I continued to do my job and take photos and that way I could earn my living. This was just when the NDH was proclaimed a state and the Ustashas came to power.

We were forced to wear a badge since the NDH was proclaimed in 1942. There were other discriminating laws implemented against Jews: in addition to wearing the badge, we were forbidden to work in state and public services, and we were deprived of the freedom of passage. We were allowed to go to the beach or to the market only until a certain time of the day; a curfew was imposed on us.

In Dubrovnik, the state power was in the hands of the Croats, i.e. of the Ustashas, and the military power was in the hands of the Italians. It was our luck that the Italians were in power there. The Germans, in collaboration with the Ustashas, tried to take us to their concentration camps, but the Italians made clear to them that they were in power in Dubrovnik and that it was Italian right to do what they wanted to do with us. And because the military power was greater than the state power, we were, in a way, put under the protection of the Italians.

The Jewish community informed all the Jews living in Dubrovnik, the Jews who by accident happened to be there, and the Jews who came to Dubrovnik to run away or hide, that on a certain day in November 1942 we would be taken away and that we could take with us what we thought was necessary. I was with my mother. We were taken aboard a large Italian passenger ship and many people of Dubrovnik came to see us off.

Among them was my boss Miho Ercegovic. When I saw him, I approached him and returned his camera. And he said, 'No, you keep it, and whatever happens will be captured on film.
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I recall well one event in Dubrovnik: in April 1942, the NDH was proclaimed an Independent State of Croatia [5]. On this occasion, a great ceremony and celebration took place in Dubrovnik. All the high-ranking officials of the NDH came to Dubrovnik and requested that this ceremony be photographed.

Apart from me, there were two more men in Dubrovnik who worked as photo- reporters; however, that day they were already busy working elsewhere. By then Jews already had to wear a badge. Everywhere else in Croatia, Jews had to wear a yellow star but in Dubrovnik we wore on the left side of the chest a brass-like yellow badge within which was the black letter 'Z' [Zidov=Jew].

My boss told the officials that other photo-reporters were busy but that signorina [Italian for Miss] Elvira - that's how they used to call me in Dubrovnik - was available to take photos. 'If you don't mind that is. You know, she is Jewish', my boss said to them, and they replied that they didn't mind as long as the whole event was photographed.

The main ceremony took place in front of St. Vlaho church, and all the officials stood on the stairs of the church. Professor Kastelan and his sister were among the officials and many other functionaries and deeply religious Catholics. The ceremony began and I started to take photos. I had a Leica then. I stood there and took photos with my Leica on one side and the badge on the other.

After a short while, I noticed that the sister of this Professor Kastelan whispered something into his ear and they both looked at me. They stared at me for some time, and, as I noticed this, I slowly started to move back towards the crowd.

I wanted this to be unnoticed, and I moved slowly and disappeared into the crowd. Soon the sister came down the stairs, walked through the crowd, came straight up to me and asked me to stop taking photos immediately. At her request, I stopped and left the event.
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In Vinkovci, I completed the public elementary school, four grades of public high school and after that I learned photography in a private photographer's shop called Seiler. In this photo studio, I learned the trade and became a qualified photographer. I was very much interested in photography and I learned to love this art form very much.

At the beginning, of course, I only worked in the photo studio but with time I became less interested in taking static pictures and telling people to turn left, right, smile, and so on. After I learned the profession and gained experience. I wanted to become a photo-reporter. I wanted to work outside the studio, take photographs of events and people.

Many traders and photographers came to the Seiler photo studio where I worked, and once one of them asked me if I would be interested in working in a photo studio in Dubrovnik. He said that they needed someone with my qualifications and that I could work as a photo-reporter.

I left for Dubrovnik in 1932. At first I lived alone but later I found a bigger apartment and settled in, and my mother came from Vinkovci to live with me. In Dubrovnik my mother didn't work. She wasn't employed anywhere. She took care of our house and of me. Apart from my work, I didn't have to take care of anything because my mother was there.

I worked in a photo shop called Jadran, which was on the corner of Zudioska Street where the synagogue in Dubrovnik was and still is today. The owners weren't Jewish. The name of the owner was Miho Ercegovic, and his son was called Velimir Ercegovic. Within the shop, there were three sections: a book store, a stationary and a photo studio.

I worked in the photo studio. My main duties were to take photos of various daily events that were taking place in Dubrovnik and its surroundings: cultural happenings, political events, events related to the church, such as mass, baptism, or other church-related events.

Sometimes people asked me to take photos of their children at birthday parties, or when a child was born. I always liked taking photos of children. Sometimes I took photos for newspapers and journalists wrote a story related to the photo. I never wrote for newspapers, I only took photos.
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My older brother Aleksandar completed a trade academy in Osijek. My father's sister Olga Cvjeticanin, married and living in Belgrade, had no children. She and her husband loved my brother very much and they invited him to come and live in Belgrade.

They helped him find a job as an accountant with a British company called Konac in Belgrade. After the first month of probation, my brother was accepted to work in the company full time, as they were very satisfied with his work. He received his first salary and sent 100 dinars to my mother. Very shortly after that, my brother had an accident and died.
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In Podravski Podgajci, Emil, my father's oldest brother, had a grocery, a butcher's shop and an inn. The butcher's shop wasn't a kosher shop; it was a regular shop that sold non- kosher meat. He was a well-off and prosperous man, but not very rich. Although I don't know much about the paternal side of my family, I know that they weren't religious.
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My grandfather, Ignatz Kohn, born in 1859, was a storekeeper; he sold groceries and textiles and cloths in his store in Golinci.
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baby pisetskaya

She went to work as a quality controller at the resistance unit plant. Later she came to work at the Epsilon plant.
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In 1982 Vladimir went on business to a plant in Leningrad where he met his future wife Rita. They got married shortly afterward and Rita moved in with Vladimir. I helped them to do repairs in this one-bedroom apartment and bought them new furniture on installments. In 1983 their son Felix was born. My son was happy with his second wife and had a good job.
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Shortly afterward his regiment relocated to Vyshniy Volochek. There he finished a school of sergeants and was sent to the town of Karakalpakiya in Uzbekistan. His wife Ida stayed with her parents in Odessa. She gave birth to a son in 1968. He was named Viacheslav. I got along well with her and my grandson. After the army Vladimir was a production engineer at the plant of radial drilling units.
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After finishing the 8th grade in 1962 he went to work at the Poligraphmach plant. He finished an evening secondary school and entered a machine tool manufacture college.
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I got another job offer at the quality assurance department of the plant. Later I worked as logistics supervisor at the plant. My department was responsible for non-ferrous metal supplies. I still took part in the amateur art club, where I sang. We gave concerts in Berdiansk and Leningrad.
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