Chapter 23

Since we had airplane tickets for the round trip from Poland to Tel Aviv, we decided to visit uncle Leon (father’s younger brother) and also to get back the money we transferred to Israel. We recovered the two hundred dollars my uncle kept for us. We were not able to get back few a hundred dollars sent through Edek Wolfgang. He decided that since we were known to be rich, he could use our money to buy an apartment, a radio, and a bicycle.

When in Israel, we went to visit them.  Edek was hiding in the bedroom. His wife Irena remained a good friend for many years to come. It was a marriage of convenience. Edek was a furrier. He survived the war in the Soviet Union. When he returned, he was able to recover the property the family owned before the war. Irena was half Jewish. Her father was a Jewish soccer player. Her mother was Czech converted to Judaism. Her family name was Martinek. Her cousin was a known writer. Irena was in  Majdanek, and later in Auschwitz.  While in the camp  she fell in love with a young Jewish man. She got pregnant. The little girl Eva was born few days after the liberation. Her lover died of malnutrition few days after the liberation.  She was alone with the baby and her lover’s sister. They boarded a train to Krakow. She married Edek because he was good to her child. He had a good profession. He was not bad looking.  Irena was tired and needed security. Sam and I and other friends talked her into marrying him. Irena was a very attractive and very intelligent woman. She had another child with Edek child, a girl Alina. After moving to Israel, the marriage was broke up and finally they divorced. They remained friends. Irena and the girls took care of Edek when he became almost blind. I was in touch with Irena until few years ago. Edek died. Irena remarried and became a widow years later.

While we were preparing to go to Israel, HIAS was arranging our trip to USA on the French transoceanic line Flandre. We liquidated our apartment, packed the few belongings we did not take to Israel and in the beginning of May 1958 we boarded an airplane to Tel Aviv with a short stop in Rome. While I was with children and trying to relax. Sam was in excellent mood, chatting in Yiddish, making friends. He was not able to set still. He was busy talking with an Israeli woman returning from a trip to Paris. She had in her carryon luggage several yards of silk. As an Israeli citizen, she had to pay custom dues. She persuaded Sam that since our luggage is small and since we are in transit only, we  will be able to take it  in  the few yards of material custom free.

It was not so simple. We went through customs. We were asked why we carry several yards of silk. We had no ready answer.  Then they found 200 dollars hidden in our garments and not reported.  To make it really complicated, which it was, I do not speak Yiddish, our name sounds not Jewish and Mary carried a rosary, catholic prayer book and a St Mary and St Christopher medallion, a gift from her governess, our beloved “Ciocia”.

We went through a body search.  Our children were confused and frightened. My uncle Leon managed to get the children through the customs.  Uncle Leon was always very good with children. Finally we were free to go. We had to leave the silk and the bills behind to be picked up on our return trip.

Leon was the youngest of the three brothers. My father was the eldest, then Fanya, then Jack, Liza, Tanya, Leon and a much younger Pola.   Leon at the age of 18 fell in love with his teacher Bella Tunis. He graduated from my father’s Gymnasium (High School) and they got married against the advice of the family. Bella was not pretty. She had dark straight hair, a short hair cut, longish nose and beautiful dark eyes. She was very intelligent. She had a degree of doctor of Philology. She taught history in my father’s Gymnasium. They did not stay in Lida. Leon went to Grenoble, France, to study electrical engineering. He returned in 1930 with a degree and a good knowledge of French. Bella started the School of Dentistry in Warsaw. She was encouraged by my mother and aunt Liza.  Leon started a business of rebuilding burned out  electrical bulbs. He was not successful and three years later the business collapsed.  Our family was not lucky or talented in business. Bella graduated with a degree of doctor of dental science. They moved to a very small town in the eastern Poland,  Bychawa Lubelska . Bella opened an office. Ruth was born.  Bella  developed Diabetes and she was Insulin dependent. In 1941 they  ran from the German invasion and ended the trip in Tashkent. Bella died in a hospital in Tashkent within a few hours after admission. She was buried in a Jewish cemetery.  Sam found the stone when attending the funeral of a friend. Uncle Leon left with the Polish Army of General Anders. Finally, traveling through Persia and Pakistan he arrived in Palestine. He was not a member of the Polish Army. I do not know how he escaped being enlisted During the ‘48 war  Leon fought in Hagganah, while Ruth was placed in a kibbutz. He met his second wife Renia in Israel.

The month we spent in Israel was like a dream. Leon and Renia were loving and caring. They took over the care of our children. Renia found friends their age and although they had no common language, they got along well. Leon and Renia gave us their bedroom. They arranged a party and invited my old colleagues, the war survivors. While Sam was searching for anyone from Krakow, I enjoyed meeting my friends from Lida. One became a colonel in the Israeli army. He arranged a tour of the small country in an army jeep with an armed driver. We visited the destroyed kibbutzim. We went to Jerusalem. The country was so small. I visited my cousin from mother’s side, Isaac Stokliski.

Renia arranged a meeting with Bubi Herzig, my boyfriend from Nancy. He was married and had 3 sons. The 4-th son was born when we were in the States. It was our first meeting since the war. He came with his youngest son, Roman’s age. Sam decided that I should have privacy during our first meeting since our separation in June 1939. I was happy to see my old boyfriend, especially that he appeared to be still attracted to me. The conversation was superficial and I realized that my choice of Sam was the right choice. Bubi invited my family to visit his home in Bat-Yam .We went there to spend a day on the beach of Bat Yam and to have dinner in  their house. I decided that I am much more attractive that Miriam, Bubi’s wife. I felt  lirtatious and sure of myself. I was not able to communicate with Miriam. Sam was doing well speaking Yiddish.

 The time in Israel went by fast. It was a healing time. With my uncle Leon, I felt loved, protected and secure. It was like home again.

Life in Israel was difficult and dangerous. We felt that our choice to go to the USA was reasonable. Sam was sure that he would be able to take care of the family. I was not so sure that I would be able to overcome the difficulties of the transition time. I had to work in the hospital as an intern .I had no idea what an intern is supposed to do.  I was out of practicing general medicine, since I entered the field of Orthodontics in 1948.  My knowledge of English was limited.

After four weeks of rest in Israel, we had to say good bye to the family and friends.  I was full of apprehension when we boarded the return flight to Paris. We were scheduled to leave  for the USA  on June 21 .We needed time in Paris to complete the paperwork HIAS. Sam was able to arrange a temporary lodging in a one room sublet.  We stayed in Paris for about two weeks.

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