Voice/Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive

Miriam Brysk - February 7, 2004

Life in Warsaw

What do you remember about life in Warsaw? Anything before the war?

Uh, I do actually. And part of the remembrance dealt with the fact that my parents and I always talked about things. So memories were kept, were--a lot of memories were kept intact. I remember we uh, I even vaguely remember the apartment that we lived on Żelazna Street. And part of Żelazna Street I found when I visited Poland was actually part of the Warsaw ghetto. My p...my grandparents uh, had a restaurant and so the family was--everybody was busy running the restaurant. My uh, my uh, they kind of lived in the Jewish section, which included uh, the, the great synagogue of Warsaw was in that section as well. And uh, let's see, my mother's sister Ala, Ala was uh, about three years younger than my mother. She, she was the closest relative I had. I, I loved her more than I did my parents. And she, she was in fact my other mother and uh, took care of me 'cause I had uh, I had developed rickets when I was a child. So she used to make sure to feed me and take me out in the park so I could be in the sunshine and play with the other children and all that. And uh, she died during the war, but we'll get to that. Uh...

Did she live with you?

No, she--my mother was married in 1932, and uh, she was at that time twenty-three. And my father was at that time uh, he had gone to medical school in Vilno, in the Stefan Batory Medical School, and came to Lida to do a residency in surgery. And uh, worked in the hospital uh, run by the famous uh, uh, surgeon Dr. Miszurski. Dr. Miszurski ran just a surgical hospital, he was a Jew. And my father was admitted for a residency there and he just was brimming with pride because this was, in fact, medicine was his life. And uh, so he met my mother after that, after he got his residency and started to earn a little bit money and all that. He decided--he was, he was twenty-six at the time. He was starting to consider getting married and raising a family. So he met my mother in Warsaw. I don't know exactly who introduced them or anything, but--and then we lived in this apartment on Żelazna Street where we were quite comfortable because my father uh, especially after he finished his residency was earning a very good living. Uh, and uh, so we had somebody cleaning the, the apartment, I had a governess, you know. We were quite, quite comfortable. Uh, my father came from utter po...poverty so it was uh, it was nice to see him uh, uh, be so successful. And the thing that, that my father was known for all his life--he was called by the Jews--poor Jews of Warsaw, the King of the Poor. Because he, without charging any money, any Jew who needed a surgery, he would just do it for free. And, so...

Did he have non-Jewish connections?

Oh yes, he worked at a, you know, at a hospital with lots of non-Jews.

He did have non-Jewish patients though.

On yeah, in fact, most, probably most of his income was from non-Jewish people, but Warsaw had a lot of Jews. You know, it also had a lot of poor Jews. And uh, so he was, he was very well off. My parents were very, very different individuals; fought all the time. Fought like cats and dogs, just all the time. But...

Over what?

Over everything. Mostly, my mother was, was, was, was a lady and she liked the comforts of life. And my father was always worried where his next dollar uh, uh, złoty was going to come from, having been so--in such utter poverty. Now, I want to go back and tell you about his background because he's such an important--he's actually a hero of the Holocaust. And uh, so they fought over money. I mean, everything they fought over. He didn't like the dinner or some--I mean, it was just. But, you know, they had a very good marriage 'til they died. And I think couples that don't fight, there's something wrong in marriages where people don't, don't, you know, aren't themselves so to speak. My aunt Ala, who was younger than my, my mother, married in the spring of--in February of 1939, just before the war started. And she too lived in, lived in Warsaw with her husband, who was a tinsmith. And uh, let's see [pause] I was born in 1935, as I said, and I was four when the war started. Now in Warsaw my, my family lived a very busy life because my grandparents had this restaurant, you know, everybody who was around was, was running around helping run the restaurant who uh, and the restaurant was not kosher.

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