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elvira kohn

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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In our house in Vinkovci where I lived with my grandparents, my brother and my mother, the family respected Jewish customs and traditions. We weren't very religious, but there were certain elements of the Jewish religion and traditions that we respected. There was no pork in the house; that was strictly forbidden. We never had pork.

Otherwise, the meat we ate wasn't kosher; at least I don't think it was slaughtered according to the strict kashrut rules. My grandmother and mother cooked on Friday for Saturday so we didn't cook on Saturday. They prepared challah for Friday night and for Saturday. We lit candles Friday night and had a festive meal, usually fish, chicken soup and chicken. We had red wine.

On Saturday, we always ate cholent, which was prepared the day before. Most of the food was kept in the well in the backyard because otherwise it would have gone bad. We had a young servant girl named Ivka from Brcko who didn't live with us, but occasionally came to help my mother and my grandmother. She wasn't Jewish so she mostly helped us on Fridays and Saturdays. For example, on Saturday she went to the well where the cholent was kept, brought it in and heated it up for us for lunch.

We also lit candles on Chanukkah. For Pesach, we ate matzot, and I remember that my grandmother made delicious matzot cake. We had a seder dinner. Of course, we celebrated all the holidays, like Rosh Hashanah, and we always had a nice lunch or dinner. We fasted on Yom Kippur. It was more of a tradition than strict religion in my family. Like it is said: the customs have kept Judaism, and not the prayers.
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After Kolodvorska Street, we moved to Daniciceva Street, and then to King Aleksandar Street, that was the name then, I don't know what it's called today. We lived in a one-story house with three rooms, a kitchen and a bathroom. We didn't have running water but we had a well in our backyard. Vinkovci had a gas plant, so we had gas and not electricity. We used it for heating and cooking. Apart from a few fruit-trees and a small garden, we didn't have anything else in the backyard.
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In Vinkovci we first lived in a house close to the railway station on Kolodvorska Street. When World War I was over in 1918, I was only four years old. Because Vinkovci had a large railway station, many trains passed through the town and the soldiers returned to their home.
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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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baby pisetskaya

We had good salaries and bought new furniture, a TV set and a fridge on installments. When I went on business trips I always bought books: in the 1970s and 1980s there were better supplies of Russian fiction and books by foreign authors to provincial towns.
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In 1978 I received a two-bedroom apartment on the ninth floor in a house in Bocharov Street in Kotovskiy district of Odessa. Flora and I moved there.
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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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After they divorced my son moved in with my parents into their one-bedroom apartment in Tairovo district of Odessa that my father received in 1972 as an invalid of the Great Patriotic War. My father worked in a barbershop in the center of Odessa his whole life. He died in 1973. My mother and my son lived in that same apartment by themselves. In 1980 my mother died and my son had to go to court to prove his right of ownership for this apartment.
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Flora and I lived in our old apartment and my father received a new apartment in Tiraspolskaya Street nearby.
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However little space we had to live we supported and helped each other. My grandfather was rather old, but he continued sewing. He still had many private clients. My grandmother did all the housekeeping.
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By that time my father had bought an apartment in the basement of the house where Aunt Ida lived. There were two rooms, a kitchen and a big hallway in this apartment. My husband and I lived there with my parents. There was a stove stoked with coal and wood. It was hard to buy anything in stores after the war. My mother made curtains with frills from gauze to somehow decorate the apartment.
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In June 1947 my father, mother, my sister Shelia, my son and I moved to Odessa to my father's grandparents Menachem-Nuchem and Riva-Zelda. We lived in a small two-bedroom apartment on the first floor of a house in the center of town. There was an outside toilet in the yard near our apartment. My father's brother Izia and his family lived with us. Grandfather and grandmother lived with their daughter Ida in her prewar apartment in Ostrovidova Street in the center of town. My father's younger sister Chaya and her son Senia lived there, too.
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They had a big house that could easily accommodate all members of our big family: my mother's brother Foma, his wife Genia and daughter Asia, Aunt Rachil, her husband David and their children, Boris and Ania, and us. At Pesach my mother baked matzah, cooked gefilte fish and chicken broth and made keyzele [matzah pudding], and brought it all to Luba. We spent the seder, led by Luba's husband Michael, all together.
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