The story of a Hasidic childhood in one of the centers of Orthodox and Hasidic Judaism of Central Europe. Mukacevo (as it's called in Czech, or Munkacs in Hungarian) is a town that was in five countries between 1918 and 1991: the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy, interwar Czechoslovakia, wartime Hungary, the Soviet Union and today, Ukraine. Mukacevo had a majority Jewish population (before it was wiped out during the Holocaust); its great rabbinical courts feuded constantly with each other.
Ernest Galpert, born in 1923, spent his childhood mornings in a religious school and his afternoons in a secular Czech school. His father had a grocery store and the family spoke Yiddish at home. During the war, Ernst was taken into forced labor brigades while his parents and sisters were deported to Auschwitz. Only his sisters returned and left for Israel soon after.
Ernest remained, hoping his sweetheart Tilda would return from the camps. She did - they married and raised two sons in Mukacevo, then in the Soviet Union. When Communism fell in 1991, one of Ernest's sons left for Israel while Ernest and his other son began helping run the Jewish community.
TWENTIETH CENTURY MUNKACS
Ernest Galpert grew up in Munkács, a town in the Carpathian Mountains that, over the course of the twentieth century, belonged to five different countries. When Ernest was born, Munkács was under the control of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, as a part of Hungary. At the end of the First World War, the Treaty of Triannon stripped Hungary of some of its territory.
JEWISH LIFE IN MUNKACS
Munkács was one of the largest Jewish communities in Czechoslovakia, Jews comprising 42.7% of its population. Living in a rural area, most Jews in Subcarthanian Rus were employed in manual or agarian labour, and Munkács was, as a result, a very poor area.
The Second World War began in September 1939, when the German army invaded and occupied Poland. France and Britain, Poland's allies, responded by declaring war on Germany. Large numbers of Polish refugees escaped to Romania, many going on to the West, where the Free Polish Forces were formed to fight against the Axis Alliance. Of the Polish pilots who escaped to Britain, many joined the RAF, where they comprised a significant portion of the flying forces.