Voice/Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive

Miriam Monczyk-Laczkowska Ferber - December 7, 1999

Learning about Judaism

When was that that you started to do that?

So now it's 1958. 1960--okay. So that was, two things happened in '58 and then there was another cute story that happened in '58 because that summer we went to a, a village that we used to go every single year. Uh, we used to rent for next to nothing a, a, a little shack, shack like, you know, with no electricity on it, but we used to go there with, eh, with my, my sister's children and some other, you, the whole group of, eh, my mother. And next door to us there lived this, this woman, she must have been only forty years old, but at that time she looked like, you know, village woman. She looked uh, probably eighty. But she was beautiful. Usually the, the village women were kind of um, short and they, because they work in the fields, their back was a little curved. She was straight, but she was, she was very skinny. And, and her name was, eh, eh, Cesarsh, Mrs. Cesarsh. And she had a cow, she had one cow. And she used to take the cow always twi...like twice a day, you know on the fields so the cow could eat the grass and so on. But she was very fragile, the woman was very fragile. And the cow used to always pull her, you know. And she would say to the cow, "You whore, you whore."


[laughs] She called. And we were laughing at her. We were making remarks. We were also making remarks because she had no children and her husband left her. He was a womanizer. And she was always alone. And we made fun of her. But that summer...


uh, I never seen her. And I was wondering what happened to her. But being the way I was, I knocked on her door. The door was wide open and, and she was in bed and she was very sick. And she was in such a dirty linens, with her messy hair. And, and she was very sick. And she was, she had no one to help her out. So I remember, I made the fire in her uh, stove. In the oven, you know, it was an old uh, stove and oven together. And I cut the wood and I brought the coal and I made fire. And I, I brought some water from the well. And I boiled it. And then I dragged her--she was very fragile, she was very skinny. And I dragged her out of bed and I washed her hair. And I remember the lice. I never forget [laughs] when I was combing her hair the lice was just coming into the water. It was full of lice. And I, I combed her hair and I, I, like, I, I made two braids for her. She had very fine hair. And I set her back in, in bed. And she looked at me and she said to me-- she felt kind of, you know, like a new person. Of course, I didn't know how to wash the linens. So I put her back in the dirty linens. But she herself was clean. And she looked at me and she said--she used every blessing that is in a Polish dictionary she used. She says, "May God bless you with health and happiness and may you marry a wonderful man. May you have children and grandchildren." She gave me all the blessing and "thank you and thank you and thank you." And a few days later she died. And I always felt I--when I talk about it I get shivers--that she was my angel. She really gave me such a blessing. That ever since that day, I had only good things happen in my life. She was like. I mean, she went on and on in a, in a broken Polish from village, you know. But, but she, she gave me these blessings that, that I--you know--I. It left an impact on me throughout my life. And she died later on. Of course, we viewed her body for three days, because that's the Polish thing. I never forget the way she look and the way she was. And, you know. So that was my deed for her, because I always felt guilty that I was laughing at her and I was, you know and we were making fun of her.

She's the counterpart to the Gypsy woman.

Right. You're right. Absolutely. So these are the--I told you those three things. Because in 1958, when I think of, of the year. I never think of the year '62, when I got married or even my children, which was a very special years from then on. But uh, these three things in, in 1958, it was, you know, significant.

And it shaped the rest of your life.


Well, two of them anyway.


She didn't talk to you about being Jewish, did she?

She didn't know.

She didn't know.

I don't know how she would [laughs] bless me if she would know.

You don't think she would have.

Because village people were not that good towards the Jews, you know. I would not--you know.

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