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elvira kohn

During the communist times, I was in the JNA, I was a member of the Party. I worked and socialized with others who were in the Party; that was my life, that was my world. Today people say terrible things about communism, but it wasn't so bad after all. Maybe in certain aspects it was better than it is today; only, we aren't allowed to say that, it just doesn't sound right.

Immediately after the war, I went to the Jewish community on Palmoticeva Street to become a member. Through the community I re-established relations with my aunt Adela in Brazil and my cousin Zlata in Israel. I've never been to Brazil, but to Israel I went several times.

The first time I went in 1950 to visit Zlata. It wasn't easy to get permission to leave the country because I was among the high-ranking officers in the Party. At last, after many attempts and rejections, I spoke with one officer-general who helped me get a permission to go to Israel. I left from Rijeka on a boat, and arrived in Haifa. It was an amazing trip because there I met with Zlata and her family and I also saw many people who had been interned on Rab with me. But, I never developed any deep feelings for Israel. I was also invited to Zlata's son's bar mitzvah and I went.

Then there was her son's wedding, and I went again, and I think I visited Israel another couple of times. Had I not been in the JNA and the Party, I would have considered to move to Israel. But I was in the army, and I was very much connected to it, and I couldn't help myself. In addition, my mother wasn't so young any more, and it was a risk to go because I didn't know what kind of job I could get there. The Party never criticized me for going to Israel. Everyone always respected me because I always openly admitted that I was Jewish and never hid my origins.

Both my mother and I became members of the Jewish community. I attended celebrations for holidays, if I was in Zagreb. Because I traveled a lot, I couldn't become more active in the community. The fact that I was in the army and went to the community at the same time had no consequences. I never directly told anyone in the army that I went to the Jewish community; that was my personal and private business. If I was in Zagreb for Chanukkah or Purim, I went to the celebrations.

I took my mother to the synagogue for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur and waited outside. I didn't enter because I didn't want the wrath of the Gods, so to speak. There were services for holidays that my mother always attended, and I know that there were people who went, and the people who conducted the services, but I'm not in the position to say much more about it. When I went, I mostly went to the afternoon meetings and tea parties, or to the meetings organized by the women's department.
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baby pisetskaya

In 1953, during the time of the Doctors' Plot [5], he was arrested as an 'enemy of the people' [6] and sentenced to ten years in Norilsk, Krasnoyarsk region. He was released after five years of imprisonment when Khrushchev [7] came to power. He had all his war decorations returned to him [see Rehabilitation in the Soviet Union] [8]. The authorities sent him to a recreation center for two months to improve his health. After returning from exile he went to work as administrator with the Odessa Philharmonic.
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Victor Baruh

My wife Ester was a teacher in Biology. Both my children, Valeri and Shelly grew up without being educated in the Jewish traditions - it's a pity that I didn't instill them in my family. Maybe my ideas from those times had influenced this decision. Valeri graduated from Sofia Technical University with a degree in refrigerator engineering, and Shelly graduated from Sofia University in Bulgarian philology. My wife died in 1997 and now I live with Shelly and her daughter, Ada Evtimova. She is 21 and is now a student at the University of National and World Economy. They accept the Jewish traditions willingly and with great interest. I attend some activities at the Jewish Community Center in Sofia.
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Jankiel Kulawiec

When I was working in the foundry I collected a few medals, the Gold Service Cross, the Bronze Service Cross, the Legnica Copper mining District Silver Medal, and the Cavalier's Cross [Order of Polonia] Restituta. [Editor's note: Polonia Restituta ranks among the three most important Polish honors. It is awarded to philanthropists and those contributing to the restoration or building of Poland, outstanding meritorious acts, arts and sciences etc, and sometimes for acts of bravery. Its fifth class is the Cavalier's Cross.] There was a story with this last one, because Solidarity [20] helped me to get it. I'd been scheduled to get that distinction for a long time, but I didn't get it because I was a Jew. That's what I felt. Apparently, in the works committee [PZPR] there were some that were against it. I only got it in 1980 when Solidarity was forming. That's when justice was done.
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I joined the party [PZPR] in 1951, when I was working at Dobrobyt. It was Jews who persuaded me. They said that if I wanted to achieve anything, I had to join. But before that I'd steered clear of the PPR and the PZPR. And I belonged to the Bund, and I'd gone there as a member of Zukunft. They had their headquarters here in Legnica on Piastowska Street, and I used to go there to meetings. That was a bit more of a democratic party, you see, and Jewish through and through. But in the PZPR I wasn't such a keen activist, I didn't get particularly involved in their affairs - I had to so I did, no more.
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Mico Alvo

I remember the death of Mordehai Frizis [65]. All the newspapers in Thessaloniki and Athens wrote about it. They would discuss it and say, 'all the Greeks are fighting together for freedom.' It was written that he was the first officer of a higher rank that got killed. Then it was mentioned that Muslims in Thrace had died, too. It also said that all united, with no difference of religion or ethnicity, were fighting for freedom and the country. I remember that well.

This was quite a positive thing to hear after the situation with Metaxas, who didn't recruit Jews in the EON. He would recruit them in other cities but not in Thessaloniki. Everybody wanted to get in the EON. We mostly wanted to get in it because we didn't want to be any different from all the rest of the people. Not that we were fond of fascism and the rest of it. Because Metaxas, one the one hand, had a really excellent attitude on account of the war, but on the other hand, what he did with beating people up and stuff like that was another story. We knew from the security police what the people who were regarded as communists went through. The word was spreading around. They were sending them to islands into exile. And many were Jews who were leftists. We knew that fascism was fascism. But then everyone had changed in favor of Metaxas.
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Rafael Genis

Even though I was almost blind, I worked for many years. I retired in the early 1990s. Though since 1945 I have been getting a pension for the disabled, it is miserable. All those years my wife and I had been going to the places where Jews were executed to commemorate them. I thought of how to mark those places and put the monuments there. Besides, I couldn't feel indifferent towards those Jews, who survived the war, and now are scraping through. I decided to found a Jewish community in Telsiai and went to Vilnius to see the chairman of the United Jewish community of Lithuania, Alperavichus. He supported me. The community was founded in 1993 with me as a chairman.
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Petras married a Lithuanian called Stepha. They have two daughters: the elder, Margarita, was born in 1980 and the younger one, Sima, was born in 1985. In the early 1990s, when Lithuania became independent [17] business started booming. My son also became a businessman, he became a car dealer. He bought the cars, fixed and resold them. He borrowed a lot of money and couldn't pay it back on time. The debt was huge and he had to find a way to pay it back. I got in touch with my relative who was living in the USA and asked him to assist in getting a visa for Petras. He was a very rich man, he owned a whole block of houses. He helped my son leave and found a job for him. It was seven years ago. Since that time Petras has worked in the USA. He paid off his debts, so we hope that he will come back soon. My granddaughters are in America as well. The elder, Margarita, graduated from the university and got a bachelor's degree. She found a job in the USA that fits her qualification. Sima got a green-card and also left for America. She found a job as a housekeeper. We are looking forward to their return.
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My son did well at school. Since childhood he wanted to be in construction and he built anything he could - from sand, stones and branches. When he finished school, he entered a construction college and finished it. Petras was never involved in social work. Although, of course, he was a pioneer [16] like all kids of that time. Nevertheless, he wasn't going to join the Komsomol, fearing that he would be refused because of his relatives in the USA, the way it happened with me. In general, all of us were apolitical. The town was small, no events affected it. Everybody minded their own business and cared about the life of their family.
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I got a plot of land in downtown Telsiai, designed my house and managed the construction project. A big and cozy house was built in the course of several years and when it was finished the whole family moved there. We made the furniture, windows, doors and curtains ourselves. It was good that I grew up in a family where I was taught everything by my kin. It was the time of high deficit. I am still living in that house with my wife.
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We had a good life. There was an air of trust and understanding. There were no conflicts. On the weekend our friends came for a cup of tea. We talked about life. We celebrated mostly birthdays and the New Year. During the Soviet time there were no religious traditions in our life.
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In 1953 we had our marriage registered in Telsiai and started our life in a poky apartment. It was always neat and cozy. At times in the morning when the breakfast was being cooked in the kitchen, I woke up and thought that there hadn't been a war and soon my mother would come in and wake me up. It was the first time over those 13 years when I didn't feel lonely and it was a wonderful feeling to know that you were needed.
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In 1953 I met my fate. At that time I was working in the road department and we were building the road Klaipeda-Kaunas. I was in the town of Linkuva rather often as we had a machinery site there. Once I was driving in a car and saw a girl walking along the road. She asked for a lift. Her house was about five kilometers from Linkuva. I gave her a lift and went to work. When I was driving back I saw her standing there again. The lady said that she worked as a maid in Linkuva. Then I saw her again, and even drove her home. This is how we met. I liked her instantly and I came to meet her parents. They liked me at once though they were Lithuanians and I was a Jew. They didn't even think of my nationality. I took the young lady to Telsiai and we had our marriage registered. We have been together since then.
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Nevertheless, my colleagues always had a very good attitude towards me. I had excellent organizational skills and they valued me. I never noticed anti-Semitisms in all those years, neither at work nor beyond it. In 1953 when Stalin died, I was only happy for that, I knew what he was worth since I had been put in the cart with the peoples' enemies [15] during the war. I understood how much trouble that person had brought.
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A Lithuanian, Vaytrikele, who was sitting at one desk with my sister Tsilya, was the inspector at the party committee. She asked me if I kept in touch with my relatives in the USA [14]. I said that I did and mentioned that I had recently got a letter from them. My case wasn't discussed for a long time, they turned me down and I made no further attempts.
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