Voice/Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive

Miriam Monczyk-Laczkowska Ferber - December 7, 1999

Reflections on Polish Family

That's a lot.

I don't think so. I don't think so. I, see, I resent when people tell me, "Oh, you did so much for them, you never forgot them and..." How could I, I mean.

They saved your life.

But they are my family. Forget the fact that. Do you forget your mother? Do you forget your father?

I said, you're her daughter. She was your mother.

Will, do you. I mean, God forbid that you couldn't have children. And you would adopt one. Would you expect her to, to talk about you like you are, you know somebody that. I mean.

You're absolutely right.

That's what people don't understand, that, that, you see, I don't belong to the Hidden Children either. Do you know how many of us in the whole uh, maybe two that were there for nineteen years or eighteen years. All of them were hidden, were really hidden. I was not hidden. I just assumed their id...identity.

You were Polish.

I was Polish, I was never hidden in an attic. I was running, happy go lucky girl, even during 1945...six. You know.

You and I share that.


I wasn't hidden either.

Yeah. I just assumed the, the identity. And it's a, it's a wonderful feeling to know that, that you belong to a family, that you have a family. I just got an e-mail and I would read it to you because--but it's in Polish. And my nephew, my, my sister's son, who just became a grandfather. He writes me in a letter, he says, "You don't have any, um uh, you know, you're take, taking care of everybody." That's how he starts the letter. "You took care of your mother. You took care of my mother. You took care of me, you took care of my children. And now you take care, taking care of my grandchildren," because he just got some, you know uh, uh, I made a package for the newborn baby. He says, "Somebody would think of you as a crazy woman." He says, "crazy woman." He says, "You know, I don't understand. You're forever thankful. Your obligation finished with the, with the moment, you know, my grandmother died." Which, which was my mother. My mother was his grandmother because he's the child...


of my sister. He says, "You have no responsibility. You must love us very much." That's how he finishes the letter. He's right...

He's right.

but he has to understand it makes me feel good that I belong somewhere. If I wouldn't have a family, I would feel terrible. They're a Polish family, but--you know. One day after, one time after twenty-five years of uh, being in America-- which I feel very guilty about, I should have done it early when my mother was alive--I went to Poland for Christmas. I apologized to Freddy very much, it was, because he's a Christmas baby, that's when he was born. I said to him, "You'll deal with it with your children. You'll spend your Christmas. Stay with your children. I am going to go to Poland for, for Christmas uh, holiday." And I sat with them over there and they made a beautiful uh, Christmas Eve dinner and, and it was very meaningful. And I wish I would have done it when my mother was alive. But you, look. My children are still my priorities and I had to take care of my kids. I couldn't just leave them and, and, and go. And unfortunately my mother was forty years older than I was, so she, you know, I lost her very early in my life. I was only forty years old when she was--I was forty-three and she was eighty-three, right, when she died. So um, I resent--the worst thing that one can say to me, "Oh you did so much for them." I mean, I know the parents love their children unconditionally and, and, and the children don't return that love. They return that love to their own children. But there are certain responsibilities and certain feelings that you have toward your parents. And, I will never, I was strong enough to, to argue with people about it. And at one point I gave--you know, whenever I see a narrow-minded person, I don't talk to them. You know, I was very upset with Steffa's husband and we should...

[break in interview]

It's a heroic journey that you've had.


The journey of Exshes Chayil I think for you.

Right. So, you see, my mother-in-law was, was like a tigress in a concentration camp. She um, risked her life for her children. No question about it. And she um, not in a concen...it was in Płaszow which was also, well.

That's a conc...

Schindler's, yes. And she did everything possible to save her children. And when one was sent to the left and one to the right, she fought for it, she cried. But to me--and I don't want to minimize her, her wisdom because she did a lot. But these were her children and a mother's supposed to do for, for her children. She should go, like, Yiddishe Mame through water and through, through fire, you fight for your child. But my mother didn't have to do that. You know, she did not have to go through what she did. So, to me, she is a real woman of, of substance, woman of valor. And, and a real ??? because what she did it's, not too many people would do. And I will always

She passed it on to her daughter.

Thank you. But um, she. You know, once I was on L.A. Jewish campaign going to Israel and this famous psychiatrist, I forget her name--his name. He's already retired, was sitting next to me. And, you know, when you're twelve hours on the plane, he was asking me all kinds of questions. And in uh, in few details I told him a lot about my story, about my life. And he looked at me, he says, "You know, Miriam, you're very well adjusted. You're so very well adjusted. You're so wonderful and you're so great and this." And I looked at him and I said, "You know what, [laughs] you don't know me. There are moments in my life that I am not [laughs] so well adjusted. And there is a lot of things that, that I need to cry out and I need to talk about." But I, you know, I don't. And if I do, I have a very good uh, uh, way of doing it. I, I lock myself in a bathroom, I look in the mirror and I speak to myself [laughs]. Because I know that I will never betray myself. I really don't believe, I was never um, I have a lot of friends, acquaintances. But I really never, you know, shared my, my uh, life with anybody special except my husband. And with my husband I cannot say everything either because it's my husband, you know. So I talk to myself. I talk to myself and I uh, I'm happy with it.

Well, we should go more. Um...

Well, we can talk about my marriage to Fred. Uh, we can talk about the children. I don't know. It depends, where, where do you want to go.

Well, let's, let's, let's stop for now. This tape's about to run out. 1

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