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elvira kohn

While I was with the partisans, I always emphasized that I was Jewish. I've never hidden the fact that I am Jewish. There was also no need; as soon as I said that I had been on the Island of Rab, it was known that I was Jewish. I said I was Jewish so that I wouldn't put anyone or myself in an uncomfortable position.

I wanted to let everyone know so that nobody would say anything against the Jews. There were other Jews with me in ZAVNOH in other departments. Some were typists, some clerks, and so on. Nobody treated us any different than the rest. There were Croats, Serbs, Slovenes, Jews. Everyone was treated equally, and the relations among us were fine. We all had a common goal: to liberate our country and bring about peace.
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There was a Jewish community and a synagogue on Zudioska Street. I think there were about one hundred Jews in Dubrovnik. I didn't take part in the life of the community that much. I always attended the services and celebrations on main holidays but that was about it. It was a Sephardi community.

Dubrovnik was a small town and everyone intermingled; I didn't feel that I needed to be part of the community life. I felt Jewish, declared myself Jewish, had Jewish friends but didn't feel that I had to do more. On Saturdays I worked so I didn't go to the synagogue but sometimes I went to the services Friday night. My mother was more involved in the community life because she had more free time. She was very friendly with other Jewish women and they often visited one another.
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Because she married a non-Jew, she converted to his religion and became Eastern Orthodox. No one in the family opposed. Jovan's father was an Eastern Orthodox priest and he was the one who baptized Olga.

I remember that someone once told me the following anecdote: Jovan's father, while baptizing Olga told her, 'Even though you are now accepting another man's faith, never forget who and what you really are.' Olga survived because she converted. She died in Belgrade around 1990. She had no children.
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Rafael Genis

According to the law on restitution we were given back the former premises of the prewar Jewish community. I sold that house and used the money to help poor Jews. Actually, the community is based in my house. I am the bookkeeper. I distribute the sponsors' aid coming from the Joint [18]. We celebrate Sabbath and Jewish holidays. I fulfilled my task: I put the monuments to the perished Jews on the places of their execution. I mostly used my savings for that as well as the money from the sponsors, collected by the relatives of the perished.
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Krystyna Budnicka

And anti-Semitism within the Church? That saddens me greatly. But I believe that the Pope's teachings are being increasingly taken to heart. After all, after 2,000 years of anti-Semitism within the Church, it's not easy to change the Church in a very short time. But I believe it will change. I have a dilemma too, not a problem, because I don't find it a problem, but a dilemma, when people ask me to define who I am. Because I am a Jew - that is my nationality, my background, and a Christian - that is my religion - and a Pole - that is my culture. I can live with the problem of my identity, it doesn't worry me. And other people needn't concern themselves with it.
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I've always remembered what home I came from, but I didn't want to be a Jew because I considered that it was something bad, for when one is a Jew, one suffers, loses one's family - that's how I thought as a small girl and as a teenager.
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Magdalena Berger

Even though my family was more religious than the other Jews in our
community, I had no problem socializing with the other children. My
family's religious practices were never an issue for me as a young girl. In
all other respects my childhood was similar to that experienced by the
other Jewish children in Sombor at the time.

There was no Jewish school in Sombor, the closest was in Novi Sad, so I
attended the local schools. There were 3 or 4 other Jewish kids in my class
at school, but no Jewish teachers. The Jewish children were always among
the best students. In my grade, boys and girls were in the same class. Once
a week all the children in the school had religion lessons. Each minority
group had a teacher sent in to teach that group. All of the Jewish kids in
the school were together in one class for this lesson. We mainly studied
Bible stories and Hebrew. The law allowed us Jewish children to stay at
home on Jewish holidays. The Jewish children in my school went to school on
Saturdays but none of the Jewish kids went to school on the holidays.
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My parents, and then my father and stepmother, socialized almost
exclusively with Jews. I cannot recall them having any non-Jewish friends.
But none of them socialized much. It was not the custom for Jews to go to
bars. Those who did were put on an informal community blacklist. When they
went out, many went to one particular pastry shop in Sombor. My parents
usually celebrated the secular New Year at home with us children. Only one
year, 1940-41, was I allowed to celebrate the New Year at a friend's house.

Sombor was not a large Jewish community. Most of the 1,000 Jews that lived
in the town belonged to the Neolog (Conservative) community. There were
some Orthodox Jews but they were a minority and were in general much poorer
than the other Jews. They did not have a big synagogue, only a few
shtiebls.

There was a large Neolog synagogue in the center of Sombor, close to our
house, where we were members. I would go to the synagogue with my aunt and
grandmother, and we sat in our permanent seats, on the left side near the
ark. From there I could see my father sitting in the men's section. The
service was traditional and all in Hebrew and the congregation could follow
and participate. During the Torah reading the cantor would call out in
German (or maybe it was Yiddish, I'm not sure): "Who has a contribution for
the chevra kadishah?
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avram sadikario

When the State of Israel was established this was a big deal for us. There was a gathering in the Jewish community and we celebrated, celebrated and celebrated. We had meetings, sang.

I founded the community because it is different to identify yourself as a Jew for that. I am a Jew. I feel like a Jew. How could I be a Bulgarian, a Macedonian, a Serb; I am not. I am a Jew. It is another thing that I am an atheist; that has nothing to do with it. Because the nation doesn't need to be connected to the religion. And all of my friends are like that too. And some are even Christians. When there is a census I always declare myself to be a Jew.
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There was a state-run elementary school where the Jews went. There was one Jewish elementary school and many others. There were four grades in the elementary school. The elementary school was called 'La skole de la Zudios' which means Jewish school [in Ladino]. All the Jewish kids went there, but the teachers were Macedonians, that is Serbs. All Jewish kids went to this school. There were no non-Jewish students. [Editor's note: The territory of today's Macedonia was attached to Serbia as a consequence of the Balkan Wars (1912-13) and the Slavic-speaking Macedonians, as a pretext, were considered part of the Serbian nation by Belgrade.] Serbian was taught in the school. In elementary school all the subjects were in Serbian. Nothing was in Macedonian. The Macedonian language was forbidden. It was forbidden as a language. It was forbidden to speak it. If a teacher heard someone speaking Macedonian, he would reprimand the person. It was forbidden because it was understood that Macedonians were Serbs and should speak Serbian and not Macedonian, a gypsy language.
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We lived in what was called 'Jevrejska mala' [Jewish district]. It wasn't a ghetto, but all the Jews lived there; there was no mixing between Jews and non-Jews. All of our neighbors were Jews. It wasn't forbidden for Jews to live outside the quarter; it was just like that. The Jewish quarter bordered on the center of town. There were no Ashkenazi Jews in Bitola when I was a kid. The Jews called it Monastir, but it was actually called Bitola. [Editor's note: During the Ottoman period the town was called Monastir, when Macedonia was annexed to Serbia (1913), it was renamed officially as Bitola, the Jews, however, continued calling it by its old name.]

Typical Jewish parts of the city were La Tabane, Il Bustaniku and Los Kortizos [Jewish neighborhoods]. The poorest lived in Los Kortezus. It means yard in Ladino. It was terrible there. One third of the population lived there. The people lived outside in fields. The poorest slept outside in the summer time. During the winter they slept inside. It was tight but they managed. We lived in a middle class section called Il Bustanika. Bustanika is a Ladino expression for a small garden. Another neighborhood was called La Tabane. La Tabane I cannot translate. There were poor people where we lived, as well as in La Tabane, but Los Kortizos was the poorest. Ciflik was another poor neighborhood. The Jewish community built about 15 rooms and one family lived in each room in a yard. This was near Bajir, the northern section of the city. Jews and non-Jews lived in Bajir. So Bajir cannot be considered a Jewish part of the city. Non-Jews didn't refer to these neighborhoods with these names; instead they used the street names: Asadbegova Street, Karadjordjeva. But they did call it Jevrejska mala, the Jewish quarter. One half was poor and one half middle class.

Ten wealthy Jewish families lived in a section called Korzo, outside of the Jewish section. My wife [Dzamila Kolonomos] is from one of these rich families that lived outside. All the rich people lived outside the Jewish quarter, but they came to the quarter. They were Jews but not that religious. My wife's father was the director of a bank. He was a very good man and helped a lot. They lived much better than us.
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Alexandra Ribush

Four fifth of my friends were Russians. I still have friends from my student's years. Volodya Bordukhov came from the family of servicemen. He was born at Bolotnaya station in Siberia. Only military units were located there. He came to Tomsk to study and we met there. 30 years have passed since the moment he told me, 'You know, I always knew that it's bad to be a Jew, though I never knew any Jews. And here I am at the institute where I find a lot of great guys and girls, and they are Jews.' It was like a bomb exploding for him. Graduates from our university meet every five years. Our first gathering was arranged here, in Leningrad in 1966. It was the 15th anniversary of our graduation. After that we met regularly in Moscow and in Novosibirsk. Starting from the 25th anniversary we met every five years in Tomsk. I went there this year, too, and a lot of my university mates came. It's very expensive to go there. I am a blockade survivor and have the right to travel free of charge, so it would have been a sin not to go. It's very nice in Siberia in winter. I feel much better there than in Leningrad.
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I didn't look like a Jew when I was a little girl, so it wasn't difficult for me to go anywhere. Lyonya and Inna did look like Jews: their noses were long and hooked, their eyes were large, their skin was pale-blue and their hair was black and curly. Their faces and skull were of recognizable Jewish type. They were very small, so they stayed indoors all the time. Only late at night they could go for a walk in the nearest park. Besides, our main entertainment was to play upstairs in the mezzanine of 'our' one-and-a-half- storied health center. The mezzanine was made of colored glass and we spent almost all our time there. Of course, we understood the 'rules' perfectly. Once Inna went outside, drew squares on the ground and played hopscotch. A woman came up to her and asked her name. Inna told her as I had taught her to answer. So it turned out all right. After that she had no more conversations with anyone there.
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rena michalowska

I never went to Israel. My husband did go, on a scholarship, to the Weizmann Institute in Rehovot [around 20 km from Tel Aviv]. Later my sister went to Israel from the States, several times, because my brother-in-law's parents were still there. I never carried banners or wrote on my forehead who I am. Only whenever there was the occasion for it, I openly said who I was, without leaving any ambiguity. And that must have taken away other's courage or gained me some kind of respect.
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