Voice/Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive

Miriam Monczyk-Laczkowska Ferber - December 7, 1999

The Rebbitsen

She had her children with her then.


When did the children arrive?

The children were...

Oh, they were there.

all the time. When they greeted us at the airport, remember? We lived with them in Belgium and we always traveled with the children. And the children loved me and I loved the--thank God for these children. But what I did, I right away went to school over there. I didn't want to think too much about it, so again, I continued on, on Berlitz, and...

Just for English.

Just for English. Only for English and, and with Mala, she was telling me a little bit about Jewish religion, but that, she didn't want to dump on me everything because I was mad at her. So she was, she was only few years older than me, maybe she was twenty-four or so. The rabbi was twenty-eight, maybe she was twenty-four. And, she was, eh, you know. Oh, they bought me a guitar. They thought with the material things they would--but I was very upset. But now I had a big problem. My mother was expecting letters from me. And she was expecting letters from America with an American stamp. So what, what had happened? I wrote the letter. Send it to, to America. To, to my uncle. He had to send it to Poland so the stamp would say...So, it took six weeks for the letters. So it was a terrible, terrible thing. But now all of a sudden one day, the rabbi comes home, he says you know what, we're going back to Belgium. We're going back to Antwerp because your mother left. She left for Poland, now we are safe. We can go back to [claps hands] Antwerp, you're going back to your friends that you met. Because they were few friends, few Polish girls like me from Poland that they brought.

Also, fishing--yeah.

Yes. So we had like our. And she says, that's where you're going to wait for a visa. I felt more comfortable in Belgium already, I, I knew few, few people. So we went to Belgium. We went to Belgium. But the letters, again, had to go through, they had to go through uh, America.

How did you feel about deceiving your mother in this way?

Uh, I, I felt terrible. And I felt terrible and, to the point that psychologically, you know, I, at one point I took a picture with one, one, one of the girls. You know, the girls also from Poland, her name was Słava. And I sent the picture to her, to my mother. And on the sta...[claps hands] on the back of the picture was the address of the photographer from Antwerp. And my mother was smart, but she was not that smart. She didn't put two and two together. But the rabbis were in tears. When they found out that I sent that picture to my mother, with the, [claps hands] you know, with the photographer's stamp and it was a recent picture of me and Słava. They were in tears. They didn't know what to do. But my mother never...

She never figured it out.

No, she, she never figured it out. Of course, later on I told her the whole story on...once I came to Poland I told her that I was there.

Did Rabbi Hirsch tell you what they had planned for you?

Well, they had planned for me. In the name of God they brought me, ok. Now um, now I was really getting mad with them. I tell you why. I had a lot of confidence in Poland. And really I was a very pretty girl. Here I was being sold short. And I tell you why. They were introducing me to these, to these religious boys who really didn't want me. They didn't want me. They wanted someone with yeeches, someone from a rich family. Because they were all um, Hasidim. They were uh, going to learn Talmud. They needed someone with a lot of money so would support them. They didn't want any part of me. And I certainly didn't want any part of them.

But the plan was to marry you off.

Yeah. To marry me off to a religious Jew, to put a sheitel on, to have many children produced and become like--of them. Well I was not that good. I was good, but I was not that good. What I was good about--I started to study. First of all, I had no patience for the, for the, the rabbis that didn't look at me, that talked to me like this, [puts head down] you know, because of them cannot look at the woman or they think they cannot. But this rabbi, the chief rabbi of Antwerp, whom I am friendly until today, he's close to eighty years old. In fact, I was at the wedding in New York a couple of weeks ago and he came in from Belgium to the wedding. Uh, he called me the diamond that they took out of Poland. Why? I started to study with him. The way I studied with him the Talmud, it was fascinating for me.

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