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elvira kohn

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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baby pisetskaya

We all lived in Grandfather Menachem's house. Daughters and daughters-in- law helped my grandmother with the cooking, and my grandmother also had housemaids to help her around the house. I remember one called Nastia and another one called Asia; they were Ukrainian girls.
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Mico Alvo

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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Mother was the same. Although we had two maids in the house, because the house was very big, things were not as easy as one would assume. She wouldn't let us tell the maids, do this or do the other; she would tell us, 'Do it yourself.' At night, when we would go to undress, she'd tell us: 'You will fold your clothes nicely on a chair. In the morning when you leave, your desk will be empty, clean; everything will be in the drawers and you will fold your pajamas and put your slippers under the bed.' And all that despite the fact that we had two maids! This helped me very much later. I went to the camp and everything seemed easy. I went to serve in the army and didn't have a problem.
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To tell you the truth, I didn't really go to Grandmother and Grandfather Alvo's house. I used to go there only on holidays, for dinner. They had two tables, one for the adults and one for the youngsters. We couldn't all fit at one table. It was really nice at dinner, when there was one table with the adults, some fifteen to sixteen people, and one with the youth with more than ten children sitting around and teasing each other.

Grandmother Rachel did all the chores in the house, and she had a maid. She didn't leave the house because she was illiterate and didn't know how to read. When they were about to rent a new house she would ask for a house on a main road so that she could watch what was going on in the street. She would sit in front of the window and watch the people on the street.

I don't know if she did the shopping herself. They didn't go out to shop then, they would bring everything around to the house. The kid from the shop would knock on the door every day and say, 'Good morning, what would you like me to bring you today?'

Then the grocery man would come by with his donkey, then the butcher would ask, 'What do you want to get for tomorrow?' And the same with the fruit seller. She wouldn't go to the city center to do her shopping. She would go only to get other things there like shoes or clothes. And she wouldn't go with her husband, but with her daughter or her daughter-in-law. I know that my mother and my aunt usually escorted her.
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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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Initially we had a maid to take care of her. Later on we brought a maid from France, when Didi was around two or three years old. We didn't pay this maid. She simply lived with us, so we provided her with food and shelter. The French one stayed for two years and this is how Didi learned French really well. After the French girl left we got a girl that had just graduated from the kindergarten teacher's school in Ioannnina. She lived in the house for two years.
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Rafael Genis

A Lithuanian housekeeper helped my mother with everything. She looked after us when we were babies and did all the house chores. Mother did all the cooking. She didn't have time for everything. First of all, she had the bakery, a large husbandry and a large family. Besides, she was the only woman in the family. Besides, Mother was an excellent cook. She was always invited to supervise the cooking process during wedding feasts. She didn't cook herself; she only tasted the stuff and managed the hired cooks and waiters. It wasn't often though, only when rich Jews were wed.
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My mother cooked chulent for Sabbath. Meat, potatoes, carrots, beans and at times plums were put in a large pot and placed in a hot oven. On Saturday my parents went to the synagogue. When we grew up, we went with them. Father bought a seat there. His tallit and prayer book were kept there in a small cabinet beside his seat. My father knew many prayers in Hebrew. Upon our return from the synagogue, we sat at the table and our housekeeper - a Lithuanian lady - took the chulent from the stove with the help of a large oven fork. Before we started eating, Father said a prayer. I still remember the feeling of that festivity and ceremoniousness during Sabbath in my parents' house.
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We had Father's butcher's shop on the first floor of our house. The animal was slaughtered and then taken to my father. He took it, then cut the carcass into pieces and got it ready for sale. At first, he had an assistant. When we grew up, we started helping him. There was about one hectare of our land by our house and we helped our parents to work on it. We grew herbs, onions, carrots, potatoes, cucumbers and tomatoes to have enough for our family. However, a significant part of the land was leased out by my father. We also had cattle - a cow and a horse. Father loved horses - he fed and cleaned his favorite himself. Thus, we had our own milk, curds, sour cream and butter.
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Ella married a well-heeled widower, whose name I can't recall. She raised two kids: her husband's son from his first marriage and their son. Her son died at the age of 21 during an appendicitis operation and after her husband's death, Ella lived with her stepson for several years. She moved out, when he got married. She had enough money, and all the house work was done by the maids. All those years Ella was close with Golda.
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gabor paneth

I was born in 1926. We had a big three-room flat in an elegant neighborhood of Budapest, which we shared with my maternal grandfather until his death in 1939. We had a day servant until the Great Depression when we had to give such things up. My mother didn't work, so we lived on one salary, the salary of an elementary teacher in a state school. Before the Great Depression we had gone on holiday to Austria every summer. We used to spend six weeks at various holiday resorts in Upper Austria. Then, starting in the mid-1930s, when we could no longer afford holidays abroad, we rented a little house in a village near Budapest.
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Alexandra Ribush

We had a nanny. When I was small I had a nanny called Tanya. Later, when I grew up, she got married but continued to visit me from time to time.
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My grandpa was a wealthy man. He owned a house in Pskov with a big yard. He also had a cart. There was a cook and another domestic worker, who helped in the household and raise the seven children.
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