February 2, 2000
Interview with Regina Fox by Cherie Korer
She had an excited look on her face, as she propped herself up on her bed and said, "Adolph! Estica Nani's brother was Adolph. He left home and married. He used to come often to the Kocsma to visit. He went to live in a town near Humenne. What was a town near Humenne?" I took out the map and we looked together. "Well, there's Barko, just south," I offered. "No, that's not it," Bubbe said, disappointed. I wanted to find the town. Bubbe hadn't been this excited about my family research before.
I studied the map. "How about Benkovce, where your grandmother Perl was born? I asked. "Yes, yes, that's it Benkovce!!
I had come to visit Bubbe today to go over some family history data I was preparing for a Harvard Medical School longevity study in which Bubbe was asked to participate. I read the accompanying letter to her. She said she would be happy to help me think of family members, how long they lived and why they died. I gave her a booklet of the Humenne website I had made in her honor on the internet and then we went to lunch. We talked and talked and before long it was time for lunch. Bubbe was happy and animated. I had never seen her eat so much at lunchtime: salad, potato soup, mashed potatoes. She gave me half her grilled cheese. Later she gave me the other half, but before I could even think what I would do with another half sandwich, the heavyset lady next to me smilingly took it out of my hand and gulped it down. I gratefully nodded my consent as I watched it disappear inside her mouth. Phew, I was glad she took it or Bubbe would insist I eat it (I had already eaten my own sandwich, but that's my Bubbe, always pushing food!)
After lunch we we came back to Bubbe's room and I laid down crosswise on her bed, stuffed and groggy. She also laid down next to me and we propped ourselves up on pillows, nice and cozy and warm (her room was always very warm). We looked through the booklet of Humenne and she looked at the pictures and began to "reminist". When she saw the picture of her father in front of the Kocsma, she explained how much he loved to sit in front of the Kocsma and look out on the green mountains and scenery. "There's the well that Father built for the Graf Androshy Sandor's horses. A man would fill up pails of water and put the water in a big vat with a thermostat that told how much water to put in. Father would make all kinds of wine and liquers in the vat by adding flavors, etc. The Graf's workers would come to the Kocsma and play bowling and have drinks. The workers lived in houses nearby. Bubbe had to stand on a stool to reach the counter to pour drinks. Sometimes the Hasidic Jews would come in and Bubbe would give them 10 Corona out of the register.
Bubbe seemed so happy as she told me how every Saturday she took the shortcut into Humenne. She crossed the bridge over the stream in front of the Kocsma, entered the Graf's estate through the big iron gate (which was unlocked for her by the gatekeeper), passed the greenhouse and garden and went in the backdoor of the Graf's Castle. She walked across the Castle vestibule and came out the front door and walked down the long walk to another big iron gate where the guard sat on a chair. He unlocked the door and let her out. He knew he would get drinks at no charge at the Kocsma. "Everyone had big respect for me. I could go anywhere I wanted because they knew I would take care of them." She walked to her Hya Nani (aunt) and Rudolph Bache (uncle) Gestettner's house every Saturday taking this "shortcut." "Hya Nani was Rabbi Hersh Lieb Eichler's oldest child, she reminded me. After the men came home from Synagogue, they had a big meal and everyone rested in bed. I played with my cousins Sam, Mordechai, and Esther" (before retracing her steps back to Kudlovsa and the Kocsma). She did not mention the fact that they were murdered in the Holocaust, but I wondered if she was thinking about it.
This story of "the shortcut" was one I had heard many times before, but this was the first time I actually got that she went into the castle by the back door and went out by the front door, never seeing the Graf or his family, all under the watchful eyes of the caretakers of the castle who frequented Fathers Kocsma. The path from Kudlovics to Humenne led THROUGH the magnificent castle of the Graf Androshe Sandor!! I had an epiphany at the moment I realized this. The excitement in Bubbe's eyes lifted me off the bed and I was at once in HER world, and it was a magical feeling of connection to her.
Bubbe kept on talking: "Estica Nani KAUFMAN Salamon was my Father's brother's, (Joseph) wife. They lived in Kayna. She had two brothers." "Do you remember their names?" I asked. "I passed a century;do you expect me to remember? She exclaimed. "Well, try." I said. I was a little drowsy from the big lunch and I dozed off in the silence that followed. I was awakened by her voice saying, "Adolf! Adolf was her brother, who married and moved away." Before I could say anything, she added, "Miksha! Miksha was her other brother and her sister was Hanna. Hanna married a Kaufman cousin and lived in another city. "What was the city?" I asked in amazement at these names which she had never mentioned before. After a few moments she came out with "Medzilaborce! Are you writing this down? she asked." I answered in the affirmative as I wrote on the form from Harvard Medical School. I didn't need to ask how long each had lived or why they died because I knew: they too were murdered in the Holocaust along. All were gone.
"Are you going to Humenne?" Bubbe asked. "Yes, someday I will," I answered. "I will fly into Kosich (Kassa) and then drive to Humenne." "Did you ever go to Kassa, Bubbe? "Yes, she said. "I traveled all over. I was always going places. I went to visit my grandmother, my Zeise Bubchoo (sweet Bubbie), Sarah Salamon in Odavidhaza near Muncacz. I drove with my uncle Mordechai Lehrer to the train station in his horse and wagon. (The Lehrer's lived on Gypsi Music Street (Zigo) in Muncacz.). There were many tracks, about a block long of tracks. We asked which track went to Humenne. I boarded the train but it took me to Kassa (Kosich) instead of Humenne. The train for Humenne did not leave until the morning. It was dark already. The stationmaster said I could sleep in the station. He said I could go to the Cossanya (police). Tears came into my eyes but I wouldn't do what he said. Instead, I started to walk in the dark. "Were you scared?" I asked. Bubbie paused and looked at me. "Of course I was scared!" She exclaimed excitedly but patiently with my silly question. Then she went on calmly with her story. "I asked people if they knew where a Jewish family lived. Maybe I asked some people who were not Jewish. I kept walking in a no man's land. Finally a man said a Jewish shoemaker and his two daughters lived nearby. I went into their house. The two daughters were already in bed. I went into bed with them. In the morning I gave them all kinds of chocolates and goodies that Hershel, my boyfriend gave me when I left Muncacz. I took the train to Humenne and there was my Father waiting for me. I didn't have it easy growing up, she exclaimed!"
"I'm worried about my family, she said, sadly. It's never good for us in this world." (I wonder if she remembered?) My heart was heavy as I thought that her Father and Hya Nani and Estica Nani and their families and dozens more relatives had been deported from Humenne and Kiyna around May 24, 1942 and murdered at Sobibor, Belsec or Auschwitz.
As I was preparing to leave Bubbe said, "I don't know what keeps me here. I think G-d forgot about me, but as long as he lets me stay here, I want to live and be with you all. I love you all. You are my whole world." She took my head in her hands and kissed me on my cheeks and on both hands, looked at me and said, "I hope you live as long as me!" We hugged for a long time. It was one of the best times I spent with Bubbie. I know I am lucky to have a spunky hunky Bubchoo (grandmother).