English Texts

THE FIRSTBORN - Sisel Klurman

I was born on the 8th day of January 1925, in Suceava, and during part of my childhood, we lived in Baletchana in the Bukowina region. I was the first born to Yehoshua Zev Likvornik and Zipora (née Hass). My arrival was followed by my sisters, Hinda and Faige-Sara, and my brothers, Alter, Pinchas and Chaim. Alter was born after two previous sons died soon after childbirth. To prevent this same bitter fate from happening again, my parents telephoned the Antenier Rebbe from Stanislav, brother of the Vizhnitzer Rebbe, for advice. The Rebbe said they should call the boy Alter and 'redeem' him.

After the Holocaust, only Hinda, Alter, (now called Eli), Chaim and I remained alive. Hinda married Tzvi Hersh Weiss, lives in Brooklyn, New York, and has two married sons in the business world, who continue to learn Torah on a daily basis. Eli and his wife, Chava, are residents of the city of Modi'in. His sons, who are married, were officers in the army and one of them served as an air force pilot reaching the rank of brigadier-general. Chaimz"l was ordained a Rabbi and lived with his wife, Rifka, in B'nei Brak. They have five daughters, and all of them are married, with husbands in kollel. All are fortunate to enjoy their beautiful grandchildren.

My grandfathers were talmidei chachamim and I was brought up in a Hassidic atmosphere. My father made a living as a merchant, and still found time to study Torah. From my parents and my grandparents I inherited my love for Yiddish culture (Yiddishkeit) and the Jewish values of compassion and charity, values that have always guided me.

My entire family lived in the same neighborhood. I remember that life was pleasant in this area. I was three years old and there was no kindergarten. I went to "cheder" with the boys, and learned "chumash" with them until I was six. I had a Rabbi from Galitzia who used to say to the boys "This little girl is a better student than all of you." After that, I went to the 'Beit Yaakov. My parents hired private teachers, who taught me modern Hebrew and German. I have always known Yiddish, Hebrew and Romanian from my earliest days.

In 1937 or 1938 there was a pogrom. I had gone to visit one of my grandparents who lived nearby. Suddenly there were stones being thrown and everyone ran away. I was hidden between two doors and so the rioters did not find me. I saw and understood what had happened. I was already a girl of twelve or thirteen.

For us, the effects of World War II began in 1941. On Hoshana Raba, the Romanians instructed us via the radio to go to the train within three hours. We were forbidden to take gold and precious metals with us and we were threatened with execution if we did so. My brothers Pinchus and Chaim were very young and we had to carry them. We therefore, were only able to take very few personal things. It was a freight train and its cars were used for transporting animals. No one knew where we were being taken, just that we were being transferred to a different place because it was too dangerous to stay in Suceava. Mother had a lot of jewelry. It was customary for my family to sew new clothes for the children for the festivals — Passover for spring and summer and New Year and Succoth for the fall and winter. I had suits with padded shoulders, so I hid the jewels in them and in my skirt belt. My parents knew nothing about it and we were able to live for six months on what I had managed to hide. Two or three days later, traveling by train, we reached the Romanian side of the Dniester River. There, everyone was herded into a synagogue, where upon the walls someone had written that they are killing the Jews. Here, my maternal aunt, her husband and their children, who came from Sziget in Transylvania, were murdered with their children. They had survived the pogrom, but were then thrown into the river where they drowned. The next day we transferred to Mogilov. Towards evening, we reached a place where there had been an army unit. There was a four-story building which had been a barracks. We were told to go up to the third floor. I went up. I turned on a flashlight and saw dead people on the floor. The place was a sort of ghetto. There was barbed wire surrounding the building, which was guarded by Romanian soldiers. The next day, I learned from others that it was very dangerous to be moved from place to place. As they moved people, if you could not continue to walk, they were shot on the spot. Eventually, I began to chat with one of the guards and I asked him to let us out of the place. I reached a deal with him — he was always there at night. I managed to leave and found a small room to which I would be able to bring my parents, brothers, sisters, grandmother and grandfather. Somehow, my friends found out about what I was doing and asked me not to leave them behind. On the night we left and the guard saw that there were more people than we agreed upon, he said "So many people? They will kill me." I paid him according to the number of people that were being taken out. We reached the room, which I had prepared in advance. The room was too small for the number of people who I was able to get out from that horrible place, so we were forced to stand until the morning.

We stayed in Mogilov and the ghetto grew smaller. It was under the control of the Germans and the Romanians. People got sick. My maternal grandparents died — grandfather died on Purim and grandmother, a week later, despaired, and passed away. My parents and I suffered from typhus. Before getting sick I managed to bring my parents some medication. We succeeded in recovering from the typhus. On the first day of Passover 1942, my father passed away. Ten weeks later my mother also passed away. Meanwhile, my brother Pinchas and my sister Feige-Sara died. I remained alone with the children, Hinda, Eli and Chaim. All the time the ghetto was getting smaller. I went to sell whatever there was left, at the bazaar and there were people there with lots of money. There was a large bakery there. I went in and wanted to buy bread but I did not have sufficient money. Against my upbringing, I stole the bread. At certain times I cooked a meal with one potato and water in a pot. When I was able to buy an egg and bread, we all ate.

At the end of 1943, or beginning of 1944, a delegation of Romanian Jewish community leaders arrived to take out orphans aged 12 or less, and only if they had no one older to take care of them. They did not take older children because there were very many orphans. I was already eighteen. Many parents had money and wanted to send their children away, so the community leaders were guarded by the police. There were Jewish police, and I asked them how I would be able to talk to one of these leaders. They said it was impossible to get to them. So, I asked one of them if I could see the list of the representatives. I was given the list and noticed that there was one from Skulen. A long time prior to the war a maternal aunt of mine and her husband lived in Skulen. The husband was a cantor and a 'mohel'. When my aunt had been in the advanced stages of pregnancy, my mother had gone there to help her sister. This man was on the list. After extensive efforts, I managed to reach him. I told him about the children and our horrible situation. Both Eli and Chaim had swollen bellies because of their hunger. He agreed to take the children. It was a rainy day and I had holes in the soles of my shoes. The floor was made of wood. The next day, the man sent me new shoes, because my old ones had left water on the floor. When I received the shoes, I knew that he would really take the children. And that is what happened. Hinda, Eli and Chaim, were sent to adopting families who were equipped with 'certificates' for immigrating to Palestine. It wasn't until later, that I was able to confirm that that my brothers had actually been sent to Palestine by boat and they in fact arrived. I found out that Hinda's certificate had been sold for cash and so she remained with the family in Romania. At that time, I did not know who of my family had remained alive. My paternal grandmother passed away.

During Passover 1944, the Russians came and we were rescued. The Russians took the men to the army and the women for work. I managed to get to Chernowitz and from there to Novoselicza. Nearby was the border, and people were crossing from the Russian controlled area to Romania. I reached Novoselicza on Friday and people there were looking for their relatives. I met a young man, Hanina Strussberg, and told him I wanted to cross the border. He told me that he was from a large family, few of whom were left. He regularly crossed the border on business, so I asked him if I could come along. He said he would be going the next day, which was Shabbat. I said I would not ride on the Sabbath. So he offered to wait and take me on Sunday. When we arrived at the border, we were told that it had been closed Saturday night. He said to me "You succeeded in sending the children and you wish to see what happened to them. Where is your G-d?" I told him, "I do not know G-d face to face, but there must be a reason."

I went elsewhere, to Hertza, where I looked for other ways to cross the border. I met more people. One woman claimed that she knew how to guide people across the border. I organized two groups of about forty men, women and children. People said that the guards were patrolling forwards and backwards, and while they were returning, they crossed the border. Some of them made it, some were caught and others scattered. We heard shots. I knew where she lived, and her family had a stable and cowshed. I reached her courtyard, went up the ladder to the attic, and then pushed the ladder over so that no one would think there was anyone in the attic. I was very tired and it was already nighttime. I covered myself with straw and fell asleep. I dreamt of my father. I had never believed in dreams. I dreamt that I said to him "Father, I am in great trouble." He said "Don't worry, nothing will happen to you." Suddenly I heard voices in Russian, and someone was positioning the ladder in order to ascend. Someone came up and said in Russian "If there is anyone there — come out at once; if not, I am going to pierce the straw with a bayonet." The bayonet came within one inch of my head. He found nothing and descended. The words of my father came true. I rose in the morning and heard someone on the move. It was the guide's daughter. She told me that her mother had fled and that she was going to hand me over to the police. I said to her "If you do, then I shall tell them what your mother was doing as a guide. I'll give you one of the dresses of the two I am wearing." She was persuaded and I asked her to show me which way to go. I stayed on in Hertza and thought about another way to cross the border. I had no other alternative — anyone caught was sent to jail for several years.

I decided to travel back to Chernowitz. In Chernowitz, I found the family of Hanina Strussberg, the young man who tried to help me cross the border. His family was from Bessarabia and they welcomed me warmly. The daughters worked and they had a permit which entitled them to move about freely. A friend of theirs had been a Hebrew teacher before the war. He had returned and was very pleased to find someone with whom he could speak Hebrew. The weeks and months passed and I began to try to find someone to help me cross the border. One day the teacher, Milo, came to the house. He knew I had not succeeded in crossing and he reported that an important Zionist who had been a partisan had arrived in Chernowitz. The partisan had organized a group of Jews with the purpose of transferring them from Poland and then immigrating to Palestine. The way was to transfer the people from Poland to Chernowitz and from there to Bucharest. Milo suggested that he bring the partisan to me. Mr. Strussberg said to me "Don't do it." He was afraid that sometimes people offer their help and then hand them over to the local authorities. I said "The 'goyim' did not catch me, and if I can help the Jews — why not?" I remember these events happening during Hoshanna Rabah in the autumn of 1944.

The partisan, whose name was Shmuel Aba Klurman, was a young intelligent man. He told me that he went into the forests when he was 18 years old and within a short time became commander of a group of partisans. I spoke to him in German, not knowing that he understood Yiddish. He later said, "Why didn't you speak in Yiddish? German is a real tongue-twister." We went together to one of my contacts in the matter of the border crossing. Aba told me he was returning to Poland and will speak to people there. He was absent for ten days. When he returned, he said a group had been formed to bring Jews from Poland to Romania, even though there was difficulty in taking more people out of Poland. In Chernowitz another group was being formed to help them cross the border.

Before we left Chernowitz, Aba had brought me a pair of high boots he had bought from a Russian officer. He himself was always dressed in a Russian officer's uniform. Could you imagine, we even thought about hiding in the steam train's water compartment in order to cross the border. We set out to cross the border. Our guide fled when he heard shots and left us to ourselves in the forest. We walked on foot all night long. We did not know exactly where the border was. Since Aba had been with the partisans, and knew how to live in the forest, we reached a place of habitation by early morning. There was a small house there with a 'mezuzah'. I could not go on any longer and Aba carried me in his arms. There was a Jewish family in the small house. We asked for tea and a place to rest. Later we rose and took a walk to the city, Dorohoy.

In Dorohoy, we stopped to clean our boots and I suddenly saw someone familiar. It was my aunt Feige, my father's sister. She told me what had happened to her and it turned out that she and her family had been in another location in Transnistria. She told me that my sister was with another aunt in Suceava and that in a few days time my uncle was coming to take them to Suceava. I told her about Aba and I introduced him. We decided that I would go to Suceava to see my sister, and Aba would go to Bucharest. A fond relationship had formed between me and Aba. We promised to hold our wedding at the Western Wall in Jerusalem. My aunt said that we were a family with 'yechus', and that it was inconceivable for me to travel with him while not married. After meeting Aba, my uncle felt that my judgment was good and if I wanted to marry him I should. We went together to Suceava and two weeks later we were married. After our wedding we traveled to Bucharest.

We started to become active within the Etzel (National Military Organization) and Aliyah Bet (the illegal immigration to Palestine network). In Bucharest we received 'certificates' (immigration permits) so that we could travel to Palestine openly and without fear. Aba was acquainted with Menachem Begin and was a member of Betar before the war. Even as a youth in Kamin-Koszyrski, he possessed a revolver. He escaped from the Kamin-Koszyrski ghetto to the forests together with three friends. The four had fled the ghetto with only one pistol, and this was in Aba's possession. The three who had joined him were the three Zwiebel brothers, one of whom was Yaakov (Alyosha). When they went into the forest, they found out that one of the peasants had a weapon. They made a dummy rifle out of a stick, and so the peasants thought they had weapons, thus enabling them to get the weapon out of the peasant's hands. They joined a partisan unit made up of Russians and Jews. They established a camp for families alongside this unit, where women and children and also non-fighting men were gathered. It consisted of 250 Jews.

We reached Bucharest together. Six months later there were many 'kibbutzim' in Bucharest, collective groups that had organized for immigrating to Palestine. It transpired that Aba still had a cousin (Masha Wolfstahl, née Dreizen) whom he had rescued when he was with the partisans. She was at the time in Bucharest and my sister was also there. We gave his cousin and my sister our 'certificates'.

My uncle arranged a document for Aba, which stated that he had arrived in Romania in 1939. A Russian official came who wanted to see identity cards. I showed him my document and he said it was valid. He said that Aba was a deserter. Aba answered him only in Polish, as if he did not understand Russian. Aba had in his pocket the revolver with which he had joined the partisans. I had a blue suit with large pockets and he managed to secrete the gun in one of my pockets. He had documents too, which he could not pass on. We had to accompany that Russian. One hundred meters from our destination where the Russian commander sat, the man who had checked us out said: "I don't want to have it on my conscious that I am responsible for your going to prison". He was not a Jew, but he let us go.

Aba wore a leather coat and high boots, of the kind which were customary in Russia. We found a room in Bucharest. One day we went out and found a restaurant and ate there. Aba noticed one of his former partisan commanders dressed in uniform and with all the insignias. He approached him and said: "I am on a secret mission. Pretend you do not know me." The high-ranking officer accepted this and so once again we were saved. We stayed in Bucharest from December 1944 until after the armistice which ended the war in May 1945.

We concluded that it would be easier to depart from Italy to Palestine. We left for Austria and from there to Italy. The Italians caused me to trust human beings again. On the border between Austria and Italy, we first met the soldiers of the Jewish Brigade. I recall Meir Garbovsky (Argov) of the Brigade's first regiment and Baruch Duvdevani. We also met Moshe Sneh. There were always fights between the members of the left and right wing political parties. There were several months of truce between them and then the arguments returned.

We began to work with the Brigade people. Aba was involved with Aliyah Bet. The Brigade brought in the children who survived the concentration camps of Hungary and Transylvania. I was asked to bring them back to humanity and to teach them Hebrew so that they would be able to begin conversing when they reached Palestine. The Brigade people helped us a lot. After the arrival of the first group, the Brigade arranged cutlery and crockery for us.

I thought at the time that every Jew knew Yiddish, but it turned out that the children did not understand what I said when I spoke to them in Yiddish. I asked a Brigade officer that spoke Hungarian to speak to them. I said to them "Nem Ess!" ("Take and eat" in Yiddish) and they understood "Nem" — "No" in Hungarian. A boy of three hid some bread for fear that on the morrow there would no longer be any bread. I recall an extraordinary thing about this little boy — six children of his family had survived, aged three to sixteen.

We decided to go to Rome and from there to get to Palestine. We slept in a park for three nights. After the third night we decided we needed to find a place in order to wash. While I slept, the men were on guard. We looked for a place to sleep, but we did not have the money to pay for even one night. We spoke to someone at the hotel. He told us that his uncle had opposed the Fascist regime and that he had some rooms to rent. He suggested we ask for the small room. We reached the place and asked for the small room, which we got. We had no means to pay. At eleven o'clock in the morning we were about to depart. Aba asked how much we had to pay for the stay. The owner said about a dollar. When he saw that Aba was having trouble coming up with that amount, he asked whether we were married and what were our plans? We told him that we were newly married and wanted to go to Palestine and fight for the establishment of our country. We had a small rucksack, which he took and placed in the finest of his rooms. To our surprise he said, "You will stay here until you have the money to pay for rent, on condition you eat lunch with us". He was married and had a son (Aba's age) and a daughter (my age). The family was a very pleasant one. We stayed there.

Aba's uncle, Abish Klurman, had left for America one month before the war broke out for business purposes and could not return to Poland. His wife and children were killed in the war. This uncle discovered that Aba had survived and that he was married. He asked us to come to the United States. We answered that we would come to America only after the establishment of a Jewish State, a state where we could raise our children without them being called "dirty Jew". He said we had lost our senses, because we could live very well in America, like princes.

Aba began to organize Etzel activities in Italy. At the time, an emissary of the Lechi Movement (the Israel Freedom Fighters, the Stern people) arrived in Italy. We supported this Lechi emissary, whose name was Yashka. We looked for a way to get to Palestine .He was active in the rescue of Jews during WWII. He was a signer of the Independence Charter and later a member of the Knesset.

Via Aliya Bet, Eli Tavin, an Etzel emissary to Italy, arrived and came to us. Later he wrote books about the organization and its ideology. It transpired that Menachem Begin, who was the Etzel Commander, had discovered that Aba had remained alive. Eli Tavin told us that he had been captured during the 'Season' and was held tied for six months. He got bread and water once a day.

Eli Tavin arrived in Italy without a passport. Aba was a Polish citizen and received Polish passports for us. The passport was a page with a water seal. I had an idea to go to the consulate to see what's what. I was not good at art, but I started working on the seal. I prepared a forged document on official Polish consulate paper, which I stole, for Eli Tavin. One day Eli returned to our apartment, his face very pale. He had gone walking with someone from Poland. On their way they met some Britishers. They asked Eli's friend for identification and asked to wait on the side for further interrogation. They looked at Eli's forged passport and said he could go. At that time, groups were being sent to all sorts of places, and there was no money. I also forged train tickets for them. The headquarters of Etzel in Rome was in our home. In 1946, our first daughter, Zipora, was born. We were the only married couple among the Brigade, the youngest and with a child. The 'underground' "baby sat" for Zipora. At times there were meetings, which lasted until 2 in the morning, and she grew up in the atmosphere of the 'underground'.

Aba was very active and this took him to various locations. One day information arrived from Palestine that the documents of one of our people, who escaped from a British prison, were to be found in the British Embassy in Rome and it was imperative to destroy them. One night Aba and three other members of the Etzel placed a bomb at the corner of the Embassy where we knew the documents were stored. No one was hurt but the documents went up in flames. Somehow, the British understood that Aba had participated in the deed and he had to go underground. When Zipora was six weeks old, I had to leave home on my own and register her birth. Fortunately there was a young man, named Dov Horwitz who took care of her until my return. Dov gave Zipora a bar of chocolate to lick and then fell asleep. Because of the bombing, Aba had to flee Italy. Before he left, I took Zipora, was six months old, and met Aba near the Vatican. I ordered a liqueur and Aba drank vodka. Suddenly Zipora dozed off. It turned out that she had drunk the liqueur and under the influence of the alcohol, she slept for 18 hours. I was very afraid she was affected.

Since Aba left Rome, I was also forced to leave the city, because the British came to look for Zipora and me. We joined the 'kibbutz' which was organized in the Grottaferrata village near Castel Gandolfo. The British knew that the headquarters had been in our home. They asked our landlord, Dr. Demerick, if he had seen any weapons. He said we had received packages of used clothes from America. Dr. Demerick and his wife helped us in many ways. On one occasion, his wife had seen a postcard sent by Aba from Switzerland. She recognized his handwriting and hid the postcard inside her blouse. Once I went out with them to see a movie about partisans. Dr. Demerick, our gentile friend, said that the Jews in Palestine fought much better. Just before Passover 1947, I got a visa to enter France under an assumed name. I put on a blonde wig. I met Aba in Paris and we decided there and then to immigrate to Palestine.

Eliyahu Lankin, who had been appointed Etzel's Diaspora Office commander, came to see us. After the establishment of the State he had returned to Israel on the Altalena ship. He had been sent by the Etzel Commander, Menachem Begin, to talk to us. Menachem Begin wanted us to go to Romania and reorganize the Etzel under Aba's leadership. Eliyahu Lankin quoted Menachem Begin saying, "if Sisel agrees to go to Romania, fine, or if not, they can come to Israel." We indeed wanted to go on aliyah, but we believed this was critical to Israel's fight for independence. I said, "If it is possible to rescue Jews, we'll do it". Aba traveled to Romania and succeeded in crossing the border illegally. Three weeks after Aba had set out for Bucharest, and I had heard nothing from him, I made contact with Yossef Klarman, head of Youth Aliyah. I phoned him and he told me that Aba had reached Bucharest. In 1948 we congratulated Menachem Begin on the establishment of the State of Israel, and he asked us to continue to stay in Bucharest as long as it was possible to save Jews. Aba organized the Etzel in Romania in 1947. The Romanians searched for him but they did not have a photo of him. They knew our names, and had placed posters all over offering a big reward for Aba's capture, but failed to find us. There was already a communist regime in Romania and anyone wanting to leave for Israel went through a lot of difficulties. We had passports but we needed visas in order to leave Romania. I discovered that the wait for a visa took six months, and even up to a year, and I understood that we were in deep trouble. All the time we were changing our hiding places. I managed to get to the person supervising visas, General Rosiano. I was pregnant at the time and asked the receptionist to allow me to enter.

Rosiano was a Jewish communist. I spoke to him about Zionism. I explained to him that I wanted to give birth in the State of Israel. He told me to come back on Thursday to a different person and later they told me to come on Saturday. On Saturday, Rosiano called me to enter and told me "There is a ship called the "Transylvania" which is due to leave on Wednesday. You will board this ship, because I shall not extend your visa". Until then I had never written anything on the Sabbath, and even today I do not do so. But at that time, for the first time in my life and because of the 'saving a life' law, I signed on the Sabbath. On Wednesday we boarded the "Transylvania". While we were still in Romanian territorial waters I was nervous, but later relaxed. We were given a nice cabin by the captain and finally reached Israel, to fulfill our dreams, just before Passover 1949.

We landed at the Haifa port. We were taken to the Be'er Yaakov transition camp. The camp was open on all sides and I remember seeing a jackal there. I told Aba: "I'm going to the Jewish Agency, to check what can be done to better our conditions". I met Mordechai Surkiss there, who had been one of the Brigade officers, and active in running the 'Brichah'. He remembered me well. The Brigade soldiers used to call me 'Metuka', while the Russians called Aba 'Lonya'. Surkiss remembered us and said, "You were placed in Be'er Yaakov, after what both of you have done for the Country?" He gave us a place to live on Hashomer Street in Tel-Aviv, but unbeknownst to him there were prostitutes and thieves there. I told him that I preferred to remain in Be'er Yaakov.

He gave us a place on Allenby Street. It had originally belonged to someone who had come from the city of Kovel in the Wohlin region, where Aba's home was. As mentioned, I was pregnant and we were told that we would not be given the room with an infant. We looked for another place and found out that there were huts in Abu Kabir. I returned to the Jewish Agency and registered for an apartment in the Hadar Yossef neighborhood which was then being built. We lived in Abu Kabir for six to seven months. Conditions were very difficult and mice ran around everywhere. I gave birth to our second daughter, Mona, in July 1949.

Aba went in search of work. For more than three months he was refused a job because he had been in the Etzel. I told him not to tell people what his party affiliation was. In the end he found a position as an accountant. He had knowledge and experience because in the summer holidays, when he was a youth, he used to work with his parents. Before the war, Aba's father had hidden two pots of gold coins and dollars, and had shown Aba the hiding place. In 1944, Aba had returned home to Kamin-Koszyrski, found the money and distributed it to many people. After we arrived in Tel Aviv, Aba needed a textbook to study accountancy. He met one of the people to whom he had given money, and asked to borrow the money to buy the book. Aba studied the material and passed the test successfully. Aba was considered a first rate accountant and worked as a bookkeeper at the Sarafand Army Base (today Zriffin) and later at a large factory.

Aba corresponded with Lemma Klurman, his first cousin. They were good friends. Lema was a member of Kibbutz Negba with his wife, Zipora, and their two daughters, Ofrah and Margalit. One day, Aba said to me "I feel something is not right. I fear that Lemma is dead". At about the same time, Lemma was killed; he had walked into a minefield. Lemma had heard the cries of a wounded man and went to rescue him. The people told him "Don't go, the field is full of mines." He went and was killed. Everyone said he was an extraordinary person.

In 1955 we all moved to Denver, Colorado, where Aba's uncle Abish Klurman lived. Aba started working for him in the upholstery supply business. After about two years, he became an insurance salesman. With his foreign accent and all, he won a contest selling the largest number of insurance policies. That earned him a cashmere sweater with a mink fur collar as a prize for me. Later he decided to leave that field of work and began his own upholstery and furniture business, and eventually went into construction.

I was asked by Rabbi Kavar of the Beth Medresh Gadol (BMH), to apply for a teaching job of seventh grade boys. I met the two prior teachers who told me that they were locked in the coat closet, from time to time, and the boys would run around wild. I listened to this and asked whether the teachers had the parent's involvement. They responded that they did not get much help from the parents. I still accepted the job. I made it a point to contact the parents to convince them to be my 'partner'. After three-months work the class became exemplary. On the first day I told the children that I spoke English with a British accent and asked them to teach me American slang. This created a real connection between us. During our years in Denver, we were blessed with our third daughter, Debbie, who was born in 1957.

In 1963, we moved to New York. Our situation at first was very hard. Aba began working in construction and sought a loan of $25,000. The bank's deputy manager said it is easier for him to approve a loan for $250,000. We took it, just on our signatures. Deena, our fourth daughter, joined our family in 1964. Each of our wonderful daughters was born in different places: Zipora in Rome, Mona in Tel Aviv, Debbie in Denver, and Deena in New York. We lived in New York until 1980, at which time our family moved to Miami.

In 1970, we were in Israel planning Zipora's wedding. We sat down with the caterer and wrote down our names. The caterer asked Aba if he was in the Partisans and was called 'Lonya'. Aba replied that it was him. The caterer went on to tell us that he did not know Aba, but his wife always spoke of him. She was to be executed by a mass grave. However, the bullet destined for her only grazed her and fell into grave. At night, she crawled out of the grave and ran into the forest where Aba found her and helped her survive. This was only one life of many that Aba saved.

When we met in Chernowitz on Hoshanna Rabah of 1944, Aba spoke of the Jewish state that was to come into being. He also told me about the dream he had had when he was wounded and was sick with a high fever. His mother appeared to him in this dream and said, "It isn't enough that the Nazis killed us, the persecutors ride over our graves in their wagons." After he recovered from his wounds, he remembered the dream. Before leaving the ghetto he arranged with his parents that when they hear that the ghetto is going to be liquidated, they should leave and take shelter with a gentile. Aba, together with a group of young people, left the ghetto and joined a partisan unit in the forest. After the ghetto was liquidated, Aba returned to the village to get his family and bring them to the forest. The gentile said the Germans murdered the family the day after they left the ghetto and they buried them near the house. Aba said 'Kaddish' in their memory and left. After Aba's dream he returned to the house, with his friend, Alyosha Zwiebel, to look for the place his parents were buried. He approached the gentile's wife and she said that their horse was buried there. He threatened her to tell him where the family was actually buried and she took him to a place where wagons were crossing and trees had been planted. That dream was true. They broke off a branch from a tree, scratched the name 'Klurman' on it and thrust it into the ground. Aba told me about his parents and added that the moment the State would be declared, he would travel to Kamin-Koszyrski and bring their remains back for burial in the Land of Israel. I was enthralled by his determination.

For years there was no way of traveling there. The Russians arrested everyone they thought to be a deserter from the Russian army. In 1990, after Gorbachev took over and 'glasnost' took hold, we went there together with a delegation of more than 20 people — half of them from Israel and half from the United States.

Aba thought he knew where his family was buried, but everything had changed since then. I encouraged him not to despair. We walked around and met two elderly women. One of them said, "Klurman, do you recognize me? I worked for your mother for nine years". We searched and found a cousin of the people who helped kill his parents. Although the cousin told us that he had assisted in taking the Klurman family from the ghetto, there were rumors that he, himself, was responsible for the murders. In the end we found the grave and the branch. In the grave were the remains of seven people. In 1991, Aba's family's remains were brought to Israel by way of Warsaw. In a ceremony conducted by Rabbi Yisroel Meir Lau, they were interred in the Kiryat Shaul Cemetery. Every year we come for the commemoration.

During the war we had buried my father, mother, maternal grandparents and paternal grandmother in Mogilov, the Transnistria region of Romania. In 1999, I traveled there together with my brother, Eli, and his son, Arieli, to search for the graves of my family. We met the mayor of Mogilov, and spoke to him about obtaining permits to have my family's remains exhumed and take them to Israel. He said it would be possible, but would have to pay a 'price', which over time kept increasing. I remembered exactly where my father and his mother were buried, assuming I could find a certain tombstone. For a whole week we looked and found nothing. We then went to an old entrance of the cemetery and saw that the mayor had built a gas station on top of part of the cemetery. We eventually were successful in finding the graves of my father and his mother. My father's grave was seven rows away from the spot where the gas station had been built.

We also learned that the mayor intended to expand the gas station. I didn't tell him until then, that I was with the 'American press' and would publicize the matter if he didn't stop the construction. It was during that trip that we met a Jew there and asked him to erect a fence around the graves of my father and grandmother. We left Mogilov with the intention of returning to exhume the bodies.

The following year, we returned with a member of the 'chevra kadisha' (burial society) to exhume the bodies. We were pleased to see that the construction of the gas station had ceased and a retaining wall had been built by the mayor. Yad VaShem has an exact partial record preserved, from the time of the war, prepared by one of the five undertakers at that cemetery. With the aid of that record we were able to find the graves of our maternal grandfather on this trip. We also found the grave of Chava's (Eli's wife) grandmother, and her father's graves. Unfortunately, we were not able to find the graves of my mother, maternal grandmother, sister and brother. We brought the remains of the five members back with us to be buried in Israel, my father and paternal grandmother are in Kiryat Shaul Cemetery.

Aba and I always felt that Jewish education was an essential ingredient for our survival and have supported it in the many ways we could. Aba always felt that the Jews of Russia knew very little about Judaism. After seventy years of communist subjugation in the Soviet Russia, we feared the total assimilation of the younger Jewish generations, and we therefore, became active in teaching them anew the Yiddish language and its culture.

Aba and I, along with a close friend of ours, Dr. Gershon Weiner, always wanted to do something about Jewish education in Russia. One day Dr. Weiner came accompanied by a young Russian man, Dr. Mordechai Yushkovsky, who spoke Yiddish, and wanted to participate in our program. We founded the "Klurman Institute for Yiddish and Yiddishkeit" in Eastern Europe and I currently continue to head it. More than two thousand students have participated in seminars organized by the Institute in Russia, the Ukraine, Poland and Romania. The seminars contain a full program of studies in Judaism and last a whole month. This is an enriching experience in Jewish living for those students who do not find a similar opportunity in Eastern Europe. The program covers Bible studies, Yiddish and Hebrew, Jewish history, Jewish traditions, prayer, kashrut, Shabbat, folklore, Zionism and State of Israel studies. The Holocaust is taught as part of the seminar. Many of those students, who participated in the seminar, asserted that "if not for the program, they would have been assimilated and no longer Jewish". These young people were thirsty for information about Judaism and Zionist history, and some of them have attended the seminar several times, and even teach in the seminar. There are attendees who have to travel five days in order to arrive wherever the seminar is taking place. The seminars always take place at the end of July or the beginning of August. Twice the seminar coincided with Tisha B'Av and the students sat on the floor and wept. Prior to this they never knew anything about the destruction of the Temple.

On Yom Kippur 1973, we were in Israel. We have an apartment on Krinitzi Street in Ramat Gan opposite a military compound. We noticed a great deal of activity and people were being called up to the army. The Yom Kippur War broke out. I started looking for places to be of help. There was a psychiatric hospital, between B'nei Brak and Ramat Gan, that accepted shell-shocked soldiers. There were soldiers there whose mental condition was more acute than those with physical injuries. I set up an organization making sure that coffee and cakes were brought, and arranged for kindergarten children, singers and clowns to perform and create some joy for the soldiers.

I recall on one occasion while at the hospital, I met a soldier, who before the war was a school principal from the Galilee. During battle, on a tank, the soldier beside him was hit by a bullet and the soldier's brain poured all over him. He tried several times to commit suicide. He told me that he had sold his apartment and was promised a loan for a new home, but now that he was lying sick in the hospital, the bank did not want to give his wife the loan because they had no guarantors. I went to the bank and explained the situation and the man's valor. That convinced the banker to give this couple the loan, and he did recover and they had a place to live.

One other young man there had small children, and he was very confused and did not even want to talk to his wife. I took it upon myself, and brought his wife and children to visit the young man and his situation indeed improved. Several months later I got a package from him. He was the manager of a shoe factory and sent me a package of slippers in gratitude. The hospital's director said to me "I could not have done what you did with these two people". After that whenever I arrived at the hospital, the director of nursing called me 'Ha'malach', 'Angel'.

One day I happened to meet a paratrooper officer, Dovid Gedanken, who to this day is a very dear friend, who told me that his company might have to climb Mt. Hermon, in the Golan region. At that time, Aba was in the States and I stayed in Israel. I thought it would be a wonderful idea for these soldiers to have warm clothing. I telephoned Aba to send as many ski jackets as he could. I also asked for and received a thousand transistor radios. I prepared packages and sent them to a number of different units. Later I got a postcard from a soldier who wrote me: "Your transistor radio made history. I was the first to go up to the top of Mt. Hermon, where I heard the wonderful news that we won the war". Aba also sent, on my request, woolen socks and gloves, and two televisions, which I gave to the paratroopers. I organized groups of women to
knit socks, gloves and hats. We also baked cakes. I arranged for games, magazines, an urn, thermoses and flashlights for them.

The Yom Kippur War, unfortunately, left many widows and orphans. We obtained psychological advice on how to converse with these families. This activity worked under the slogan "Dad's Friends". At Hanukkah, Purim and other school vacations we took the children to all sorts of places, and also provided a summer camp for them. Moshe 'VeChetzi', who later became the Chief of Staff, even came to peel potatoes. We arranged for the widows to spend a day or two in a hotel to rejuvenate their spirits, as best as they could, considering the circumstances.

Having heard what I had done at the hospital earlier, I received a call, from those involved in setting up a field hospital for the shell-shocked at the Wingate Institute. They lacked equipment. Once again, I organized groups of women to bake and collect cakes, coffee and sugar. That night we brought everything, including sheets, blankets, pillows and games to the field hospital. By next morning I realized we were still lacking some necessary items. I went to the Soldiers Welfare people and explained what I had done and told them what I needed. They wondered how I had known so much about this field hospital. They could not believe I had done all this since the day before. They checked out my story, and by the end of the day they furnished the necessary items and all were prepared and ready.

After the war ended, my family once received an invitation to a party from the paratroopers and we met Raful (General Raphael Eitan). Raful spoke and said that this group of paratroopers was very fortunate to have support by someone 'behind the scenes' that we could depend on all the time. He called me to the stage. At that point, all that happened to me, the memories of my family, the Holocaust, the War of Independence instantly flashed through my mind. I told them how I remembered that we were told, "How can you dare dream that there would be an independent State of Israel?" And there is a State and there is a great army. I was very moved and surprised when they presented me with their unit's insignia.

In order to provide funding for the widows and children, I arranged for a private auction at our home in Ramat Gan. I went from place to place, store to store, artist to artist, who donated art for this purpose. My friends and other prominent people made this a very successful art auction.

After the Yom Kippur War, while living in New York, I founded an organization called "The Golan League", which adopted a battalion of Israeli paratroopers, to take care of their widows and children. We arranged for birthday gifts for the children and Bar and Bat Mitzvah gifts.

Aba received a Sefer Torah as a gift from Rabbi Avraham Twersky, the great-grandson of the Trisker Rebbe. This was the small personal Torah of the Trisker Rebbe, which was used in his 'shtiebel' in Kamin-Koszyrski before the Holocaust. Aba had the Torah restored, and gifted it back to Moshe Mordechai Eichenstein, the Rav of the Trisker Shul in Kiryat Mattesdorf, Jerusalem.

When we were building nursing homes, there were those who said that there were not many elderly and that this business was doomed to failure. Aba said that in our modern times, the life expectancy of people would be increasing and there would be a need for nursing homes in the future. Later, he was invited to speak by some universities about his philosophy.
The concept of having an additional Jewish Orthodox institution of higher learning coincided with our belief that Jewish education was paramount to the survival of our heritage. The idea of Touro College originated in our offices, in New York, with numerous meetings with Dr. Bernard Lander. Ultimately, Touro has expanded its horizons from New York, to Israel, Russia, Europe and other locations in the United States, including one in Miami that is opening in 2006. Aba and I each received Honorary Doctorate degrees from Touro College in 1991 and 2001 respectively.

The year 1995 began on a very sad note for me, my family and everyone whose path crossed with that of Aba. He passed away from this world on January 11 of that year. During our lifetime, and despite the many adverse experiences we were faced with in our youth, we spent fifty beautiful years together. Aba is buried in Kiryat Shaul Cemetery, near to those of his family exhumed from Poland, and my family which were exhumed from Transnistria.

During all our years together we discussed everything. I visited him in his office and got to know the employees. He consulted with me on many business matters, and introduced new people to me to get my opinion. After Aba passed away, I succeeded him in the Presidency of the businesses we started, Ganot Corporation and Avante Group Inc. which own and operate nursing homes and rehabilitation centers. Our accountant who has worked with us for 23 years told me that Aba was always ten steps ahead of everyone.

In addition, I am involved in scores of organizations such as universities, colleges, yeshivot, day schools, hospitals and research institutions in the United States, Israel, Russia and Eastern Europe, that advance Jewish education, health and welfare.

With everything that I have going on, there is still plenty of time to do what I enjoy the most ___ spending time with my family. Zipora and her husband Amittai Ben Aviv, live in Woodmere, New York, and are the proud parents of three grown children. Ora and Haim Orkabi, live in Ramat Gan and have three daughters, Liya, Anna and Alma. Michal and Adi Sayag, also live in Ramat Gan with their two sons, Tal and Or. Matan is engaged to Alyse Solomon and live in New York. Amittai and Zipora run a successful freight forwarding business in the United States and Israel.

Mona has two beautiful children of whom she is most proud. David lives in Orlando. Karen lives in Hollywood, with her three wonderful children, Shelly, David and Daniel. Mona works in the family business at my side and is a tremendous asset.Debbie, has a flair for art, and loves theater and music. She has worked in the family business in various capacities over the years.

My daughter, Deena, has one daughter, Kayla Masha, who makes her very proud. Deena has also worked in the family business, and is currently a homemaker. She excels in 'hachnasat orchim'.

In looking back over the years of my life, going through the Holocaust where I lost so many family members, or the struggles Aba and I faced during Israel's fight for independence, I never would have dreamt it possible that I would have been so fortunate to spend fifty beautiful years with my wonderful husband, and be part of a close knit loving family encompassing four generations.