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baby pisetskaya

Shelia and I had many Jewish and Russian friends. We didn't care about nationality: there was no anti-Semitism in Kursk before the war. My sister and I and our friends went to swim in the river, celebrated Soviet holidays and went to parades. There were many gatherings in our apartment. My friends from the orchestra visited me. We sang, danced and had a lot of fun.
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There was a hotel near my grandfather's house. It collapsed during an earthquake in 1932. Actors of the Jewish Musical Comedy Theater of Fischson stayed in this hotel when the theater was on tour in Uman. I still have the paper with the advertisement about it. Clara Yung and Beba Yunesca, actresses of this theater, used to rehearse in a big room in my grandfather's house. We had no piano at home and a violinist came with them. I was five years old then and attended all their rehearsals. Then we organized family concerts at home for ourselves where I sang arias from musicals. Our family was fond of music and we always had a lot of fun at home.
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Jankiel Kulawiec

And all that time I thought a few times about going to Israel. The first time was when the Haganah [19] was being formed - with friends we wanted to go as volunteers. We even went to Left Poalei Zion to sort it out, but something didn't work out, I can't remember what.
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I went to that Hashomer Hatzair [4] too. I went there just like that, because I had friends who were members. That was a left-wing organization, but a Zionist one. Good, active, they were mostly into sport, less of the politics and mostly physical culture. They had this hut rented on the same street as the synagogue, and that was where the meetings were held. There were trips too. I remember we would go to the woods in these gray uniforms and short trousers. And at the end - from 1936 to 1937 - I belonged to the Zukunft [5]. But that was for a short time and I remember very little.
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She was in some left-wing organization, only I don't know whether it was the Bund, perhaps, or the communists that she belonged to.
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Mico Alvo

None of us was in Maccabi [54]. I remember Maccabi took part in all the parades because of their music band; they always used to win some prize. They had the best orchestra out of all the scout organization. They were very organized. Our parents never even suggested to us to take part. They regarded it as waste of time, and that we should be more devoted to our studies instead.

It doesn't mean that whoever was in Maccabi was a Zionist. There was another organization that was called Betar [55], which was clearly Zionist and strongly Zionist in fact. It was a youth organization. Betar was the right wing of Zionism. They would gather at my grandmother's and grandfather's house. There was a mid-basement that had been rented out to them. That's where they would meet. They used to say that we should understand that we would go and build the state of Israel.

There were other organizations, too. There were the old graduates of the Alliance, the Association des Jeunes Juifs [56]. It was a youth club, mostly to meet people, to dance, meet girls etc. We weren't signed in anywhere. We didn't really have the time anyway, because when we finished school the war started. The only union that I was signed in with was the YMCA, where we used to go for the summer camp and at the Sailing Club. I went to the YMCA summer camp in 1934 and 1935 in Ai Giannis [village in the region of Thessaly, 270 km south of Thessaloniki]. We didn't have a problem at all with the fact that the YMCA was a Christian camp, none at all.
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Dario was also an employee. Sento was doing well in his own business. And later Grandfather gave his business to Sento. I'm not aware whether one of the sons-in-law was more active than the other in social clubs and such things. Some of them were at the B'nai B'rith. Sento was definitely a member. His father must have recommended him, and I think that Elie was a member, too.

They weren't very interested in politics. They were probably a bit more concerned about the city's affairs. All the Jews voted for Manos, Nikolaos Manos. Most of our own voted for Manos. I imagine that my father and my mother's sons-in-law, voted for him, too. But, before Manos, they voted for Aggelakis. They voted for Aggelakis because he was very well known. Aggelakis was great; he lived very near our house, at the same tram stop. He was a doctor. Aggelakis was with Venizelos, but they never really cared if he was in Venizelos's party. They voted for him as an individual. He originated from an old family from Thessaloniki, very well known, he was from Thessaloniki's aristocracy. With Manos, it wasn't the same.
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Rafael Genis

My elder brother was a member of Betar [3] and enrolled me there. I didn't attend the meetings of Betar, where the methods of foundation of the Jewish state were discussed. Our Grandpa made brown shirts for me and my brother. I became a member of Maccabi [4], we often arranged all kinds of sports game and contests. We still celebrated Jewish holidays and Sabbath at home and we did it not to hurt our parents. On holidays I went to the synagogue with my father though I didn't believe in God at that time.
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Usually on Saturday, after the synagogue, we went for a walk in a park. I loved singing. When I grew up, I joined a children's choir organized in the synagogue by photographer Poser, a passionate lover of singing. On Saturday after the service and lunch we had our rehearsals or just sang in the synagogue.
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Janina Duda

And how did it happen that I ended up in jail? Long story. When I was twelve, in Lublin, I was influenced by others to join this Zionist organization Hashomer Haleumi [17]. It was supposedly a religious organization, but I didn’t feel it. But the family of this Hebrew teacher, Gorzyczanski, they influenced me, especially their daughter Malka. So I dropped out of Hashomer Haleumi and I became involved with communist youth. Why? Mother made some food and took me with her to Ruska Street, to some old, sick people who lived there, sleeping in holes in the ground. This shocked me. So I thought: these dreams of our own state, kibbutzim, that’s a beautiful thing. But who will help these people from day to day? This system has to be changed.

This was a basic problem: should we look for a future for the [Jewish] nation in Palestine, even though there was no talk then of getting land there to form this state. Even as young people we knew this was necessary, but there were no possibilities, it was a utopia then. So I liked the fact that here we could all change our fate. And that was what attracted me, not some Marx. [Marx, Karl (1818-1883), German philosopher, economist and revolutionary. The system of beliefs he created was the basis of the ideology of socialist and communist parties.] All I knew about Marx was that he had a beard. Really, you do have to be a complete idiot to convince young, 17 or 18-year-olds that they’re Marxists. It’s just some idea of social justice. The fact that I went to school hungry, that I sat on the other side of the door, because my tuition wasn’t paid… All that influenced me. This is why I became involved with communist youth and then with socialist youth in Lublin, with TUR [Towarzystwo Uniwersytetu Robotniczego] [18]. And these last few years before the war, between 1935 and 1937, I was very active in TUR. When they told me to distribute leaflets, that’s what I did and… nothing more.

I met fantastic, young working class people in TUR, especially from 1 Maja Street. A group of students from KUL directed TUR at that time. There was Feliks Baranowski, later the ambassador of Poland in Germany, in the GDR, the minister of education, Jozef Kwiecinski, who was in Anders’ Army [19], sailed on a battleship and drowned when he was leaving Iran for England. There was Stanislaw Krzykala, after the war a professor of history at Maria Curie-Sklodowska University. Is it strange that there were students from a Catholic university in a leftist organization? Well, but there was only one university in Lublin – the Catholic University of Lublin.

There were different student groups there. There were student corporations influenced both by Sanacja [20] and ‘endecja’ [Endeks] [21] and socialist groups. TUR was a group of socialist students, mostly sons and daughters of railroad workers from Lublin. When we organized some events, for example ‘no more war,’ we were afraid that police agents would spy on us. So the mothers of these students made sure strangers wouldn’t come up to us.

Communist youth and TUR were very close in Lublin. They took advantage of the fact that TUR was legal. I remember the pavement-makers’ strike. The trade union of pavement-makers had a place, where they had a ping-pong table. Felek [short for Feliks] Baranowski and I played ping-pong there, but I used to go there with a pan of food for the pavement-makers. We brought food for those who were on strike. I also remember how, during 1st May demonstrations, students from the most radical corporation waited for us, for the TUR demonstration, with clubs, ready to beat us. So we brought clubs as well, to fight back. There were many Jews in TUR. There weren’t any problems. We were all Polish citizens. That’s how it was in TUR in Lublin.

And I was accused in the trial of TUR in Lublin. Accused of communism. They were playing a bigger game, the supervisor of the school district Mr. Lewicki and the Polish authorities, which were becoming pro-fascist after 1935. He was connected with the supporters of Pilsudski, with Sanacja and also had PPS [22] roots. So his daughter, Wanda Lewicka, was accused of communism. So what this was all about, speaking in plain terms, harassing this Lewicki and his family.

When TUR was dissolved, PPS protested – you have no right! So TUR was reopened, but the entire board was put in jail, including some of the young people who could be accused of communism. And this is how I ended up in the so-called ‘Trial of 40’ in Lublin [one of the numerous so-called show trials]. To make this trial more communist, they dragged in from Bereza Kartuska [presently in Belarus, 300 km east of Warsaw] where in 1934 the Polish government created an isolation camp for prisoners, primarily political, Franciszek Jozwiak, pseudonym Witold, who was the chief of staff of the AL [23] during the war and later the commander of militia.

I have to say that this entire indictment, at least to the extent that it concerned me, was not true. All the accusations were fictitious. They just took three boys, Okonowski, Durakiewicz and one more guy and they signed a declaration; they signed everything that the police gave them. This is how the indictment was drafted and there wasn’t a word of truth in it. And there were sentences. I finally got four years, just like others from TUR. [Mrs. Duda was in jail from 1937 until the day of the commencement of WWII, 1st September 1939.
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Magdalena Berger

I was a member of the local Hashomer Hazair youth group. We used to meet in
the yard of the synagogue and sing songs but I cannot remember what else we
did. I was not particularly Zionist but the youth group was something to
do. We did not go on trips because the parents would not let youth go away
overnight. Occasionally, the Hashomer Hazair youth from Subotica would come
to Sombor.
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avram sadikario

And also since Hashomer Hatzair was a Jewish atheistic organization they were against it. I was religious until I was 13-14. I always went to the temple and tikkun, prayers early in the morning. I was very religious. And all at once I became an atheist. I was very insolent and I said there was no G-d, and such foolish things. I openly said this. My father got mad. I made him mad. I am sorry for this. And when I was a little older I didn't [talk like that with him]. I wasn't opposed to the fact that he was a believer. I didn't have other conversations with my father about ideology. He didn't have an ideology to talk about.

Hakhsharah was for those who were preparing to go to Israel. Before one went to Israel, one prepared oneself for agricultural work in hakhsharah. I didn't go. I was too little. [The participants] were from all over Yugoslavia and it was in different places. Every year there was a camp, moshav, in Slovenia. Slovenia is a very nice country for camping. It was like a summer camp. It lasted a month. Jews from all over Yugoslavia came there. Only from Yugoslavia, not from other countries. Every year we went, without parents, by train. We went for ten years for two or three weeks each time.
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I became a member of Hashomer Hatzair in 1936. [It was first organized in Bitola in 1931.] They organized us. A sheliach came from Israel [then Palestine], Moshe Ashkenazi. [Editor's note: He arrived in Bitola in 1932 from Kibbutz Merchavia. He understood Serbian and remained in Bitola for two years.] He stayed for a year and taught us Hebrew, history and all kinds of other things. Half of the youth in Bitola were members. These were educated people. Hashomer Hatzair first came to Bitola in 1936. One of the founding members of Hashomer Hatzair was Roza Kamhi's brother, Pepo Kamhi. There were others too. It existed before, but it really developed during the year Moshe Ashkenazi came from Kibbutz Merchavia. He was an exceptionally intelligent, educated, cultured person; he knew everything.

There was also Tehelet Lavan [13]. This was another organization that was a bit weaker. They accepted everyone - all those who were poor and uneducated and delinquents. Hashomer Hatzair was more elitist.
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We had a special Jewish soccer club called Atehija or Nada in Serbian. We played with other clubs, non-Jewish, some were better, others worse. I was in the second team. I was too young to be in the first team. Our team was just Jews.

Atheija was a Jewish club that did a lot of things, amongst them there were sporting activities, a choir, literature, all sorts of things.
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Alexandra Ribush

I never had any spare time, as I was always a very active public person, a member of the YCL [Young Communist League] and a sportswoman. Actually I went to extremes. I went in for track and field athletics and free calisthenics simultaneously. A lot of young people were fond of sports in those years. Being young I was a true YCL member. I believed everything we were told about communism, the Soviet power, etc. I believed that God didn't exist and thought that only illiterate old people believed in Him.
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