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Bina Dekalo

My mother Victoria was named Viducha in Odrin. When she was young, she didn't want to go to school. Her father sent her to a religious school, where they studied Tannakh in Ivrit. She had a great memory and memorized a passage by heart as early as the first lesson. When she went home, she recited it to her father. But instead of being happy with his daughter's abilities, he got angry, because he thought that a woman shouldn't study much, but should look after her children and her husband instead. That's why he forbade her to go to school. So, my mother didn't go to school and remained illiterate. When she issued her documents in Bulgaria, they wrote her name down as Victoria.
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Roza Anzhel

My mother, Olga Almozino, had taken the responsibility for our bringing up at home. She was quite strict but very amiable at the same time. She was telling us off, shouting, even beating us at times. She was very fastidious and wanted everything in the house to be immaculate. She gave all kinds of orders, about everything. And don't forget that she was illiterate and not because they didn't send her to school, but because she didn't want to study. But she used to test us to see if we had learned our lessons. She made us read the lessons aloud; she memorized everything and then she would open the book and pretend she was reading in order not to lose face, but in fact she didn't know the alphabet.

When her first grandson, my son Zhak, was born and started school, she decided to examine him in the same way. A good idea that was, but he was in the habit of, just like that, with no good reason, walking around while he was telling the lesson aloud. And he started walking around her in circles like that until one day he noticed that she was holding the book upside down.

My mother was taught to read by my sister Rebeka's daughter, Albena. Later she was able to read the newspapers.
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Isac Tinichigiu

He was illiterate; he couldn’t read, but he could sign his name and he knew basic arithmetic.
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Eshua Aron Almalech

My paternal grandmother was illiterate and she just looked after the children. My father, Aron Almalech, told me that she was a very nice woman, but he only had some childhood memories of her. Their house was visited by many people, not only Jews.
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Matilda Albuhaire

My mother was born in Plovdiv and my father, in Istanbul. My father spoke Turkish and Greek and, because he needed it for his business – he was a merchant – he spoke a little French, too. My mother was illiterate.
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Mirou-Mairy Angel

My mother was playing the mandolin. She enjoyed sitting on the balcony, playing the mandolin. But her brothers used to grab her at her hair and take her in the house. It was considered improper for a young woman to sit on the balcony playing the mandolin. She was insubordinate. She wanted to do things in her own way.

She didn’t want to marry my father, not only because he was her cousin but also because he was illiterate. She wanted to marry someone of her choice. But her brothers were planning to leave Thessaloniki and go to live abroad. Before leaving, her brother Azriel obliged her to get married to my father despite her will.

After the marriage her siblings left for France. All of her siblings that went to France perished during the Holocaust. My cousins, the children of Azriel, survived. I have contact with them. They came to visit me in Greece. Also, my eldest daughter Lucy keeps contact with them when she visits France.
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Rozalia Unger

I know little [about my mother]. I don’t know whether she went to any school, I’m afraid she could neither read nor write, but I’m not sure.
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Nico Saltiel

Last was Margot. She wasn’t married and lived in Thessaloniki. I saw her very often in my grandmother’s house, where she lived with my grandmother and uncle Sam. She was a very joyous and pleasant girl. She spoke French and Greek, and Judeo-Spanish with my grandmother. She spoke Greek very well, without an accent. I don’t think she went to the Lycée. She didn’t work, she was sustained by Uncle Sam.

I knew she had a lot of friends and neighbors, as well as classmates from school. She used to go out for shopping, or to see some of her friends. But she didn’t take us out for walks.

Margot wasn’t really religious, but she would certainly go to the synagogue during the high holidays. The Saltiel family were not very religious, none among them was. Here in Thessaloniki, the middle class was very loose on religious matters. Those traditions were kept by other social classes, such as the ones that went to religious schools and let’s say had a more intensive religious education. To the Talmud Torah went children from the poor layers of society, workers and clerks. There they learned Hebrew and had a closer contact with religion. While those that went to the French school, such as I, had started not to care. They didn’t know Hebrew. None of my father’s family knew Hebrew.

Margot left for the extermination camp with her mother. She didn’t want to escape on her own. She could have left earlier with the help of Christian friends, but didn’t want to abandon her mother.
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Mia Ulman

My grandmother was illiterate, so my grandfather educated her, taught her how to read and write. She read a lot afterwards, including newspapers and magazines, which my grandfather bought and later subscribed to.
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Victoria Almalekh

Granny Vintoura used to keep a close watch on the order at home, because my mother was always at work helping my father with the store. Their store was at the market place. I remember when I was seven or eight years old my sister and I used to bring lunch to my parents. My grandmother used to cook the meals. She used to wrap the meal in a white cloth – meat, bread, salad, etc. As it was said above there was a distribution of duties in our family. Grandma would cook and deal with the chickens and vegetables in the yard, mother would do the laundry and clean guided by granny’s instructions. Granny used to grow flowers in the yard – we had beautiful roses. My sister and I used to help her. We accepted the requirements my grandmother had to us for keeping everything in order as something absolutely natural and never as a burden. Yes, she would observe the order, but I can’t say she’s ever been severe to us. She even would help us get away without getting our bottoms spanked by mum. We always knew the safest place is behind granny. And she had an unshakable authority in the family. Now I think, she probably had some misunderstandings with my mother. But this was never revealed. Grandma had the unshakable authority. I remember a case like that. My grandmother was completely illiterate. Even her Bulgarian wasn’t good. But she felt it was her duty to check how we prepared for school. One day I saw her giving an exam to my sister with the textbook upside down.
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Venezia Kamhi

My father, Avram Mordohai Konorti, was born in 1900 in Sofia. He had studied in the Jewish school. He spoke Ladino, Hebrew, Bulgarian and a little Italian, because he had been a captive in Italy during World War I. He had a command of Hebrew and Bulgarian, spoken and written. My mother was illiterate. She learned to read and write when my brother and I started school. My father was a carter. He transported goods from the railway station to different factories and shops. I suppose that my mother and father got married in 1921-1922, because my brother was born in 1923. They didn't get married before the registrar; they had only a religious wedding.
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Lina Franko

Isak Franko, was born in Kırklareli in 1919. [Thrace, European Turkey] His mother, Franka Franko wasn’t a well-educated lady. She could even have been considered as semi-literate. Though she herself claimed to know how to read and write, I never remember her reading a newspaper. His father, Yomtov Franko, on the other hand was engaged in the leather trade. They were a family who had been affected by the events which took place in 1934 in Thrace. Jewish families’ houses and work places were looted during these Thrace events [13]. They moved to Istanbul overnight leaving all of their possesions behind. The Jews, who had come to Istanbul the night the Thrace events took place were either placed at a hotel by the community, or they stayed over at their relatives’ homes. They went back to Kırklareli to close up their homes and work places after the events had cooled down. But of course, they experienced great financial loss during these times.
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Moiz Isman

My mother was educated up to primary level.  She studied at the school in her neighborhood but I do not remember the name.  Unfortunately during those times the literacy rate was very low. [It was the introduction of the Latin script for Turkish (1928) that made literacy more widespread.] Naturally my mother’s mother-tongue was Judeo-Spanish, and her Turkish was almost non-existent. Because they didn’t have any Turkish speaking circles, there was no reason to force herself to speak Turkish. She was the head dressmaker at the firm called “Stregilo” (sewed shirts and blouses for women) in Beyoglu. She trained [vocational] students there.  My mother also spoke very good Italian. (I don’t know how or where she learned it.
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Leizer Finchelstein

Yet what I admired about this socialist system was the obligation to go to school [17]. Previously, education wasn’t compulsory. If your parents wanted to send you to school, they did so, if not, they didn’t. When the war was over, after August 23, almost 50% of the general population was illiterate.
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