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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 the 1970s many Jews began to move to Israel. The situation was hard; there were meetings where anti-Semitic speeches were made. I believed everything that was said at such meetings. I had a negative attitude toward departure and I still do, as a matter of fact.
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Chaya was going to move to Israel in the year 2000. She even bought a ticket, but a few days before her departure she died of extensive myocardial infarction.
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Mico Alvo

Marcel was a Zionist. He used to tell me sometimes, 'We will do this, we will do that.' That a state would be created, and the state of Palestine would become a Jewish state. He was a supporter of Herzl [10]. We used to hang out with Marcel because he thought of us as his younger cousins.
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To tell you the truth, I didn't like the way that the Israelis treated the Arabs, that is, in this very arrogant way. That harmed Israel very much. This has been my opinion for years now. That time especially with Sharon when this thing happened in Lebanon. It wasn't Sharon, who did it, but surely he should have intervened and stopped them and things would have been very different. Because in that case the Palestinians would have him..., while he remained cold-blooded, in my opinion, and allowed this to happen.

He didn't interfere, when he had the responsibility to do so. I am talking about the attack of the refugee army camps in Beirut, at Sabra and Shatila [92]. I had enough of him then, I mean I never liked Sharon after this. Even when he became the Prime Minister, I didn't like him at all.

We didn't have any business relationships with Israel at all. After the liberation I went to Israel a couple of times. I can't say that I was impressed the first time that I went there. I didn't like the Israelis either, to tell you the truth, because they were rude.

They had this pride and arrogance: 'You see, we fought this war and we won.' And they regarded everyone below them. Because they were saying things like, 'You sit there and while we are fighting all you want to do is make money.' Alright I agree, but could you have done it without the help of others?

I went with Mari to Haifa on a holiday once. We went up to the Carmel [93], to a very nice hotel. We could see the sea, the city etc. There were many others there on holiday, too. When they found out that we weren't Israelis but... and we nevertheless talked, but they had this very arrogant look. That really bothered us.
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In Gaza we stayed for as long as we had to, in order to finish our training: four months. I remember when I took a leave for Tel Aviv. I went as often as I could, I would always go to my uncle's house. They gave me a leave when he first came and visited me with a marshal from Tel Aviv. Later on, before I left for Egypt, they gave me permission for a week, I think, or ten days, because I was leaving.

We were crossing the borders from Egypt to Palestine on the train. We would go through customs in Kaltara. The name of the place where the customs were was Al Kaltara. It took about twelve hours on the train. And all the trains were army trains. I stayed at Uncle's Joseph house. He lived in a very nice area: at Rothschild, Boulevard Rothschild. I ate with them, we would go out together, and my uncle took me to buy me some clothes because I had nothing.

In the beginning, when I found my uncle in Tel Aviv, I felt great love and trust towards him. He treated me really well. Uncle Joseph was a landowner in Tel Aviv. He would buy land and construct buildings. He also worked in the Discount Bank, which was one of the largest banks. But because he and his son didn't get along with the rest of the associates, they had withdrawn. It was one of their biggest mistakes in life, because later on the bank became an international bank.

I don't remember if Grandfather and Grandmother Saltiel were already there when I went to the Middle East. I met them in Palestine every time that I would get a permit to go out. They lived in Tel Aviv. I used to visit Grandfather and Grandmother when I went to my uncle's Joseph. They rented a room. They had brought some money with them. Not a lot, but Grandfather had some.

I didn't know Hebrew, but this is what was happening. At the time, the first immigrants that had come were from Germany, and they all spoke German. For example, just like they speak English in Palestine now, back then it was the German language. In any shop that you would get in, if you spoke German, they would understand you.

I was more interested in the fact that I was in a family environment again. I appreciated that very much. I couldn't see any difference in that I was with many other Jews. I wasn't aware that it had to be Jewish land. And I didn't imagine that it could happen either. I knew that many Jews lived there. I didn't feel more at home, I never felt that there. I could only feel the difference between being under occupation back home and being free there. I was quite proud that I was wearing an air force uniform. I didn't have any conversations on this subject with Uncle Joseph. He never suggested that I should stay there. He had his interests there and he hoped that he would keep having his interests there.
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Krystyna Budnicka

I went to Israel for the first time in 1961. Everyone at work was astonished when I came back a few weeks later. I think they were sure I would stay there. But I didn't want to stay there. I've been to Israel twice, in 1961 and 1989. I love it very much, but I would never take the decision to move there because my roots are here. Israel is a very special place for me because it's a Jewish country, the cradle of both Judaism and Christianity. My country. Mine is the grave of Rachel and mine the grave of Christ. I'm no missionary, so for me Judaism and Christianity form a kind of whole. I'm very happy when I'm in Israel and I always want to return there. But my home is here, and it's here that I feel relatively secure. I'm alone here, because I have no family, but I'm not lonely. I don't think I would be happier anywhere else. Perhaps in Israel? If I had emigrated years ago.
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Janina Duda

Apart from that, it’s a country like any other, people like everywhere, except there is a difference between European Jews and African, Asian Jews, difference between Sephardi [41] and Ashkenazi Jews. And there are lots of them there. When I was once staying with this friend of mine, it was the Easter [Pesach] holidays. And she says, ‘Come, I’ll show you a synagogue of Abyssinian [Ethiopian] Jews.’ And there was this woman walking there, an Abyssinian – what a beauty she was! European features, because they don’t have African features, but black as tar, such a beautiful face, full figure; it turned out she had four or five children, she was walking to meet her husband, who was a curator in the museum. And the clothing of these Abyssinian Jews…

When it comes to politics, there is a large difference with regards to their attitude to political issues. Firstly, social-democrats and socialists there are mostly Europeans and these most backward ones, the religious ones, are the African and Asian Jews. It was said here all the time that you can communicate in Polish in Israel. But that’s not true, not true. When I was taking a tram or bus and I asked something in Polish, no one answered, in German – no one, in French – yes; there were many Jews from Morocco and they understood French.
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I also visited a kibbutz. It is true that the people who set these up were very ideological, but these kibbutzim were not communes. Yes, people worked together, but they had everything they needed and they studied, whoever wanted to leave, could leave, etc.
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There, people don’t have that. They are the masters of their own country. The issues of Palestine, Arabs, those were also political games of all these Arab sheikhs. When this territory was being divided, the Arabs could have created their own country then, but they didn’t let them. Because they were being used in these games with Israel, England, etc.

But I can say one thing: what they turned this desert into, it is just amazing. I stayed with my friend, whom I used to work with, in Bat Yam, a city south of Tel Aviv. The seashore there is very high, precipitous; when I was there the first time they were putting dirt there, planting plants and putting in these tubes. Every 25 cm, that’s what I calculated, there was a hole, they would pour water in that hole and it went straight to the root [patented Israeli irrigation system]. I was there several years later and the entire seashore was blooming, lush vegetation, lots of flowers, the entire area was nicely developed. That’s just something you don’t see anywhere else.
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Alexandra Ribush

The Arab-Israeli wars of 1967 and 1973 didn't really have any influence on me [see Six-Day War [16] and Yom Kippur War [17]]. I simply didn't understand the core of the conflicts and the strife. I didn't know what kind of people these Arabs were. I didn't really care about it either. Later on I figured out a lot for myself.
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Margarita Kamiyenovskaya

My mother and I remained by ourselves in the apartment after my father's death. In Soviet terms our apartment was too big for two people. I was called to the Ispolkom [38] and told that half of our apartment would have to be occupied [by some other tenants] and that we would be left with two rooms. Our acquaintances, an Estonian couple, needed lodging and we gave them half of our apartment. We decided that if we had to share the apartment, it would be better to do that with people we knew. We made a big mistake. Our new neighbors started harassing us, nagging at every trifle. It happened so that my mother was afraid to go into the kitchen when I wasn't around. Before going to work I cooked lunch for my mother and left it in her room. She warmed it on a small electric oven. This went on for a long time. A new house was built in front of ours and we exchanged both our rooms for a one-room apartment in a new building. I still live there.

In the 1970s a new wave of immigrations of Jews to Israel started. I sympathized with those who had made up their minds to leave, and later I was happy for them when I found out that they had settled in well. I couldn't think of immigration for two reasons: my mother was feeble and started feeling unwell with age. She wouldn't have been able to survive the change. I was the only one she had. The other reason was that I could never stand heat. I couldn't even sunbathe on the beach.
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In 1948 Israel became an official state. It was great news for our family. Finally, after 2000 years of exile Jews had their own state. We followed scarce messages in the papers, in case anything was mentioned on life in Israel.

All of us had Soviet passports. We were surprised that there was a section for nationality in our passports, but that made the work of HR departments and the NKVD easier. In 1948 anti-cosmopolitan campaigns commenced in the USSR [see Campaign against 'cosmopolitans'] [32]. Every day we read articles in the papers about rootless cosmopolitans, who were willing to do harm to the USSR: actors, artists, scientists, writers. All of them were Jews. The Jewish Anti-Fascist Committee [33] was exterminated and its members were executed or exiled to the Gulag. A Jewish actor, Solomon Mikhoels [34], was assassinated. Estonians were indifferent to that, but those who came from the USSR, ardently condemned cosmopolitans. That campaign kindled anti-Semitism, but it wasn't done by Estonians, but by the new-comers. Then repressions commenced. In 1949 many citizens of Estonia were deported. Many of them were deported for the second time. They came from the first exile and were to be exiled again. I understood that something even more dreadful was brewing, and I was right.

In January 1953 the Doctors' Plot [35] commenced. Of course, it wasn't as horrible in Estonia as it was in Russia. One of my colleagues had returned from Leningrad and said that when he was in the tram, the ticket-collector and some passengers were discussing what should be done with the Jews in the tram. They suggested that the Jews should be ousted from the tram, but the ticket-collector talked them out of it in a peculiar way saying that it wasn't the time. Of course, nothing of the kind happened here. Though, directors of enterprises were ordered by Moscow to fire all Jews. Sometimes people were dissolved for 'incompetence'. I was called to the HR department and was told to write a resignation letter. I did. My direct boss, an Estonian, was fired probably for 'wrong' recruitment. I was looking for a job for three months, but as soon as the HR department saw my passport, it turned out that there were no job openings. Then my former boss offered me a job as a supplier in a service company he worked for. We collected scrap metal in the dumps and cut fir tree branches before New Year. I hoped that our life would change for the better after the Twentieth Party Congress [36], when Khrushchev [37] held a speech, exposing Stalin's crimes. There were no quick changes. Only after ten years or so I got a good job. I was hired as a dispatcher in a company, dealing with timber: Lespromsbyt. Then I was in charge of the transportation department. I worked there until my retirement.
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Eva Ryzhevskaya

In 1948 the state of Israel was founded. It was a real joy for me. I was happy that the USSR was one of the initiators for the foundation of the state of Israel. Though, later on the relationship between the USSR and Israel was harmed. The USSR deemed Israel to become its satellite, one of the countries of the socialistic camp, ?nd Israel decided to follow its own way. The Soviet government could not forgive that. However, we followed the events in Israel and were concerned. I took such pride in Jewish people when they gained victory in the Six-Day-War [38] and Yom Kippur War [39]. Jews knew how to build their country and how to protect it as well.
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Henrich Kurizkes

My family and I were very enthusiastic about the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948 [54]. I think it's a great joy for all Jews scattered all over the world that our state recovered after many thousands of years. When mass departures to Israel started in the 1970s, we supported those who decided to move there as much as we could and were happy to hear that they adapted to life in the newly gained country. A number of our relatives and acquaintances were among them. My cousin Mirah and her family left.

My wife and I didn't consider emigration. I was a professional military officer and after resignation I was not allowed to depart for ten years. Later my wife and I started thinking that we might never see our daughter and grandchildren again if we moved. We couldn't even imagine that we would be able to visit Israel or invite our relatives to visit us. So we stayed here. Our son and his family visit us and call us every week.

Miriam and I have also visited Israel. We took our first trip in 1994. Then we had another trip. I also attended the World Jewish Congress in Jerusalem. Israel made a wonderful impression on me. I felt at home there. Of course, there are problems, but this is common in all countries. What is most important is that this little prosperous country should live in peace.
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