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elvira kohn

I lived with my mother until her death in 1977. The two of us were very close, and it was difficult for me when she died. I was left alone; I had no relatives, no family of my own. I was also in a dilemma as to how to bury my mother. It was a very difficult decision for me to make.

Many JNA officials and my co-workers came to my mother's funeral. Some gave a speech. I couldn't have a rabbi bury her in front of the party members. And I couldn't have the party members speak in front of a rabbi. The two don't go together. So at last I decided not to have a rabbi at the funeral. It wasn't easy, but there was no other choice. I wasn't allowed to have a Jewish funeral for my mother.

But I did something else. I arranged with the community that for the whole first month after my mother's death, the Kaddish was recited for her every Friday and Saturday. That was something I could do. Even though all the officials knew that I was Jewish, and that my mother was Jewish, I couldn't have both, the Party and the rabbi, at the funeral. And even though I had been retired since 1964, and my mother died in 1977, I was still in the same circle of people, shared the same spirit, and thus wasn't allowed to. That was the spirit of the time.
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Victor Baruh

I was a member of the Bulgarian Communist Party but this has never influenced my attitude toward Israel. The anti-Semitism among the Bulgarian communists was due to the position of the Soviet Union. Although I was a member of the Party I experienced things that caused me to think. I wasn't a blind follower, for example in 1970 I was discharged from the magazine Plamak [flame in Bulgarian]. I saw a lot of things that I didn't approve of. The official attitude of the state toward the wars in Israel wasn't the only thing.
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Rafael Genis

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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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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At that time all the leading positions required either Communist Party or Komsomol [13] membership. I couldn't join the Komsomol in the army as my relatives were living in the USA. When I became an engineer of the commodity base, one of the inspectors at the Ispolkom said that my title envisaged that I should be a member of the Communist Party. I applied for party membership.
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The war was over and I was still wearing my military jacket. I didn't have money to buy civilian clothes. Besides, I wasn't willing to take it off. Now, Lithuania was free and I was eager to go home, but they wouldn't dismiss me. I said that I wanted to go to my motherland to help restore towns and villages, but they told me that a Soviet person had his motherland all over the USSR.
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Then there was an unpleasant incident, which ended up having no consequence. Soldiers from Russia often asked me how I was living in capitalist Lithuania and I honestly and straightforwardly told them that we had a good living - we had a lot of food, abundance in goods and no oppression. I was called to the party organization several times and accused of anti-Soviet propaganda. I tried to explain that I didn't concoct anything. I was arrested and kept in custody for 14 days along with other 'anti-Soviets' - the wardens of the liberated villages etc. We were put in a guarded cart. They gave us no arms and no explanations. Finally, they either clarified things, or didn't have time for that, or my proletarian origin worked, I was released all of a sudden and sent to the regiment. I will never forget those two weeks of fear and consternation.
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In the late June of 1940 the Soviets came to the Baltics [5]. My parents took it calmly and didn't discuss this issue with us. A Russian officer was housed in one of our rooms, but our store was not taken form us. At first, our lives practically didn't change. Our town wasn't affected by repressions and arrests [6] and deportation [7]. Nevertheless, life was getting worse. Many products vanished from the stores. People only bought primary goods because of high prices. I was thinking of how I could help my family.
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At times I helped my master with anti-religious propaganda. I think he was an underground Communist or a Communists sympathizer. At times he gave me flyers to disseminate. There were times when we tied red fabric to stones and flung them at electric wires, there was a blackout and the fabric was torn into pieces. The next morning the whole town was strewn with small red flags. I did it unquestioningly just satisfying my master's request and fortunately I wasn't caught, otherwise I would have been arrested like many other underground Communists.
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Sami Fiul

When the [Romanian] revolution broke out in 1989 [16], I was already retired, and I lived in Tecuci. By that time I lived alone in Galati, and I went over to Tecuci to my niece Gabriela Marcovici, (Manase's daughter) who needed my help, she was alone with her mother. My niece worked in a school in a nearby commune, Movileni; I went to take her home, because it was winter, and when I went inside the school, we heard the news about Ceausescu going down at the radio. When we got home, we didn't go away from the TV for three days! It didn't mean as much as August 23rd meant for Jews: that was the relief that death wouldn't come the very next day, it was a liberation, even if the communists did it. But of course we felt in 1989 the possibility that we could finally get rid of queues, that we could make it day by day, that the society would change in its structure, which it did.
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In my own personal way, I tried to find a solution to the Jewish problem: I couldn't forget the four years of anti-Semitism only because of August 23rd , and the Socialist Party seemed like an answer, that was before it was gulped up by the Communist party in1945. Later I realized that communism wasn't at all what I hoped for, but I can't say exactly when, because I was so absorbed in my work: I had a huge responsibility, the energy deficit was immense, some people had to study with an oil lamp sometimes. My involvement in politics was that I had some courses to attend, some compulsory Marxist education. And I confess that I was and still am a believer in socialist, if not communist principles, that is I believe that the people who work hard are the ones that push the society forward. Socialism says that all people give what they can to the state, and what they get back is proportional with what they gave; in communism, all must give everything they can, but they get back a fix amount, like all others, no matter if they gave up more. I didn't have problems from the government because I was a Jew, not under Gheorghiu-Dej [12] or Ceausescu [13] but under Ceausescu I first felt the problems with food and heat. And I must tell you, capitalism scares me a bit, it is too savage, and socialism still seems more just to me. I personally didn't feel many restrictions under communism, simply because I didn't care about anything except my work: I knew nothing about politics. But I remember that I had to stand in a queue for a bottle of milk, my grandchildren were small, and it was hard to have something to put on the table. I never listened to Free Europe [14], or other radio stations, I was too busy with work.
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I did think of making aliyah, but I was too caught up in the political whirl back then, and I was naive enough to think the Jewish problem can be solved through communism. The theory of socialism was excellent, but what came out of it wasn't what I expected. I was deeply mistaken. After I realized that, it was already to late for me.
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Krystyna Budnicka

In 1968 I got another job, but not because anyone forced me out - I simply found a better job, and one that was in Warsaw, so I didn't have to travel. And that year, in 1968, I made many trips to Gdanski Station [in Warsaw], which was where people left for Israel. I said goodbye to many people then, and cried. But I didn't have the feeling that it was anti-Semitism among the Poles that was driving them away. I blamed the communist system; after all, it was because of the authorities that these people were losing their jobs, it was communist agitators who were screaming at rallies for Jews to go to Zion. That system persecuted us in various ways, and anti-Semitism was just one of its methods.
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Regina Grinberg

Although our first few years were very difficult, I was very ambitious and believed that we were creating a new, humane society. It was only after the events in Czechoslovakia [26] that I gradually became disillusioned, but that was still many years away. In the interim period I was very satisfied with my life in Bulgaria. My colleagues in Pernik and in the First Workers' Hospital, where I went to work, respected me and loved me. I never had any problems on account of my Jewish origins, and for some time I was even chairwoman of the trade union committee in the hospital.

Had I had changed my name I could have made my life even easier, but I did not do that. For the record, I want to make it very clear that no one asked me to change my name. Some Jews did so by choice, especially if they worked in public posts. I, however, was never ashamed of being a Jew, nor have I ever felt threatened because of my origins. I found my place here in Bulgaria, and, although many of my relatives went to Israel, I never wanted to follow them. This is not to say that I don't understand them. They did not find their place here in Bulgaria because they were used to living in an isolated Jewish society like the Jewish neighborhood from my childhood in Shumen.
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Leontina Arditi

I was happy on 10th November 1989, although I keep my left views. But I gradually got aware of the fact that we go from a certain lie to another. I am still sorry for the totalitarian period because one could do everything then, despite the immense difficulties that I encountered. And now one just has to have money and be an insolent lout in order to make one's way in life. Once there also were such kind of people, but the strong and the intelligent managed to make their way. The period that has come to our country is pernicious and corrupt, especially for the young people.
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