Voice/Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive

Miriam Monczyk-Laczkowska Ferber - December 7, 1999

Discovers Background

In Catholic School. So you were a practicing Catholic, but you resented the priests.

I was studying and I still love the, the surrounding of a church. In fact, when I went with Freddy to Poland, many times I took him to the cathedral in Sosnowiec. We have a beautiful cathedral. And, and he says, what a beautiful church. It is. It is a beautiful church. I like the surroundings, I like the singing. But I don't like [claps hands] the priests. I don't like the, their sermons. I don't like the, what the Catholic religion preaches. Always the sin and you're going to go to die, you're going to go to [interruption in interview] So where are we right now? We are at uh, nineteen fifty...


six. 1956. And now it becomes 1957 and I a--I'm very popular and I'm dating in groups. And I belong to a, a wonderful little theater group with all my friends. And we're performing and some of our texts are against the communist [laughs] party. So they uh, you know, they give us a little trouble. And uh, you know, but, eh, we collect. And, eh, sometimes we, oh, you know, we, we hide with it and we perform in areas where we shouldn't be performing. [laughs] And, eh, but in school I am really, my, my Polish mother is extremely proud of me because every time I recite uh, she sit in the first row. And, that's my daughter and so on. And the professors like me and uh, you know, I'm being liked and uh, I have a good time at school. But now, you know, I'm getting older and I'm beginning to date. Really date, you know, like go on dates. You know, I'm beginning--fifteen, sixteen years old. I go on dates, we go, you know. We didn't have cars, we didn't have uh, restaurants. We just meet on the corner and we go for a walk--few and we talk. And that's our way of uh, of dating, ok. But that's a big deal. Um, and now, I am beginning to really hear remarks. I can go with, you know, I meet this handsome guy and I go for a walk with him and I hear little kids or uh, you know, twelve-year-olds or ten-year-olds calling me a Jew, Jew and Jew, you know. Whenever they look at me and you know. So now I, I become very cautious of it and every time I go on a date with someone new I tell them, look, I don't understand what's happening, but um, why they're calling me all these names, but. I really don't know why. So be prepared if you hear some remarks, eh, about me, you know, they call me--they're calling me Jew. I, I really don't know. Um. Now, now it's 1958. 1958 is the most significant year in my life. Three things happened that are really, you know, when I think about it, it really makes a lot of sense. First of all, I found out I was Jewish. Why did I find out in 1958? There was a huge emigration of Jewish people going, leaving Poland to, to Israel.


And Sosnowiec supposedly, for the first time--I found, found out that I--you know, since I found out that I was Jewish, I started to be close to them. But how did I find out I was Jewish. It was Easter [coughs], it was Easter and my mother was--it was April, I remember. And one day I was home alone and there was a knock on the door. And I opened the door--we lived on a third floor, on the attic. It was a very primitive, but very clean apartment. And, right now it's very much in style on the young couples, it's like in Greenfield Village, you know, in, in uh, um, in Soho in New York, that kind of an apartment. But, of course, we had no plumbing and it was a very primitive apartment, but very clean. And there was a knock on the door and I opened the door and there was a gypsy woman standing and she, she begged. She, she wanted me to, to give her my palm and she was going to read me cards and you know. And I don't why, because usually I was very compassionate, but gypsies I didn't like and I told her to get out. And I closed the door. And she said, behind the door, she said, "You gonna be sorry because you're going to die on, [laughs] on your birthday at the age of sixteen." That was April. And I supposedly was s...sixteen on, on May 26. She guessed it. You know, she looked at me, I looked sixteen, you know. She would have say, you'll be dead on your fifteenth birthday or eighteenth. But she guessed, it was her [laughs] luck. So, of course, I was scared. I wouldn't go out, because I thought, she says, "You're going to die tragically and, you know." She, she was threatening me. So, that was one episode that shook me up. But then, a few weeks later, no, about few days later, you know, we were sitting and preparing for the holidays and we had a very poor holiday.


We had no money. We had--you know, my mother was, you know, that's a very expensive holiday with the ham and with the eggs and with all kinds of cakes and, and, and, and. You have to go to church and, and uh, put the holy water, the priest puts the holy water on all your goodies. We didn't have that. And she was sitting at the table and she was looking at me and, and, and she was saying, she must have been very vulnerable that day. And I was standing in the doorway like that, you know, looking at her. And I said to her, "What are you so sad about? I, it's a beautiful day, so we, you know, so we'll eat what we eat every day." "Cause what we ate we used to get a old bread, we used to cut it in cubes, like the bread that you put in the Caesar salad, the croutons [laughs] we made out of old bread. And then she would boil water and put some bullion in it, like a bullion, like, eh, eh...


cube, right and a little bit of garlic. And that was our soup! And we didn't even have any butter or any, you know, any fat to put it. I mean, it was disaster, but that's how we, what we ate. But, you know, I got [laughs] accustomed to that soup and I would love to make it myself. But I wouldn't know how to make it. My mother knew how to make it. I would probably put this in it and this in it, it would not taste the same way. So, I said to her, what are you worried about? So instead of dozen eggs we're going to buy one egg, just for the tradition. Instead of uh, one kilo of kielbasa or, or, or the ham, we're going to just, you know, just for the tradition to have it in that little basket to take it to church. Oh, but we don't have this and we don't have this and this is not right, you know. And then all of sudden she looks at me, she says to me, you know what? You and I are orphans. Both of us are orphans. So I look at her and I said to her, "What are you talking about. I don't feel it. I don't feel that I am an orphan. You are everything to me, you give me everything. You give me, you are a mother to me, you are a father to me," and...She was very pleased and she started to cry. And then she told me, she says, "I'm not your mother. I am not um," she, she told me everything that I told you. Not everything, because that was impossible to tell me everything in it. She told me what had happened. That she, I had a beautiful mother. She didn't have a picture of my mother. And she went into her door and she said, there is a hundred dollars that your mother gave it to me and also a, a gold bracelet. And she showed me the bracelet. And this is--I will keep for your dowry. That's what I got from your mother when she uh, when she came to say goodbye to you. She brought me the hundred dollars that she had and a gold bracelet. And I will keep this for your dowry. You know. As poor as we were she didn't want to change it.

She didn't want to touch that.

And believe me Sidney, hundred dollars in 1958 was like, I would say maybe $5,000 today, or, or $8,000.

Especially to people in poverty.

Yeah, because they made uh, five dollars a months, you know. So that was, eh, that was a lot of money.

What do you supposed made her tell you all this?

She was vulnerable that day. And sh...I was asking too many questions. She couldn't lie to me. Every, every, she was tired of my questions. And the people were leaving. You, you heard it on the radio. You heard it in tele...you seen it in television. Jews are emigrating, Jews are emigrating. They are--they're going here, they're going there. She couldn't, eh, you know, there's. One time, you get tired. You're only a human being. You get tired from all the questions. And she looked at me, I was grown. I was sixteen years old, mature, grown girl. And she, she, she wanted to get it out of her,


Okay. So now, it was not a shock for me. I felt relieved. I felt, you know, I suspected it for so many years, at least four, five years.

And how...


What about your relationship at this point with your brother and your sister?

Oh, wonderful.

Did--and they knew, or didn't they know?

Of course they knew.

They never told you.



It was a taboo subject. And it was, they didn't want to discuss it. And, eh, it was, you know, I was one of them.

© Board of Regents University of Michigan-Dearborn