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What My Mother Told Me

Sunday, September 1, 2002

Dear Sir:

While browsing your Wielkie Oczy site I also noticed that you are interested in any information related to the Wielkie Oczy Jews. This information is not mine, since I was born after the war. This information comes from my mother. Many times mother told me stories about Wielkie Oczy before and during WWII. These were stories seen through the eyes of an eight year old girl (my mother was born in 1932).

In her stories mother often mentioned the name of one family, friends of my grandparents, parents of my mother. This was the Steinbruch family. They lived close to the town square (Rynek), at what is today Dabrowszczakow Street. The family consisted of the parents and children. The names my mother remembered were: Ryfka, Belek, Abrum, Surka, Josko and Donia. At this time these children were already adults. Mrs. Steinbruch was ill and died before the expulsion of the Wielkie Oczy Jews to the ghetto. This family was rather well off and had a farm, a field and a wood. A son-in-law of Mr. Steinbruch who was married to Ryfka enlarged the farm and added a floor to the house. He also had a clothes shop. Belek, one of the sons, knew the German language and after expulsion to the Krakowiec ghetto, he probably worked there as a translator. One of the girls stayed with us for about two weeks. Mother said, "She lived in the garret." Mother doesn't remember in what circumstance she arrived to us. She escaped either from the transport taking her to the ghetto or from the ghetto itself. During these two weeks she was very concerned about her family and decided join them.

Later, Josko and Abrum twice came to Wielkie Oczy from the Jaworow ghetto. The first time they came, they still looked relatively good. The second time they were very wasted. My grandparents gave them some food (on January 3, 1943 my grandmother wrote: "7 kg cereals, one leaf of bread and 100 zloty were given to Steinbruch"). My grandfather tried to persuade them to escape to the woods, but they said they would go back because they want be together with their family.

The situation in Wielkie Oczy wasn't pleasant. One feared the Ukrainians, who made up a big part of the population, as they feared the Germans.

When the Steinbruchs were still in Wielkie Oczy, my mother had a very important task to fulfill on her way to the school. Every morning grandmother prepared a bottle of milk, and mother would leave it in a lilac bush, just behind a wicket in the Steinbruch's farmyard. If someone had observed her or asked questions mother was prepared to say that she was just "piddling behind the bush".

Many times mother asked herself after the war if someone from this family had survived.

I'd like also to add that in my parents' house there is still a remembrance of the Steinbruch family. It is a sewing machine that Mr. Steinbruch sold to my grandfather for 1,000 rubles on July 20, 1941 (on the piece of paper there is a signature of Belek Steinbruch).

I'm not adding too much information, because it is related to only one family, but if you find it useful, please use it. It will be my modest contribution to a remembrance of the life in Wielkie Oczy, the little village on the eastern border, where before the war different nations, cultures and religions were mixed like in a melting pot.

Best regards,

Grazyna Partyka

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