Voice/Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive

Tola Gilbert - July 25, 1983

Moving to the United States

Did you plan on coming to the United States all along?

Yes, all along. As a matter of fact, my younger sister got a little brainwashed there in the kibbutz and she wanted to go to Israel and, uh. Well a lot uh, the reason for it was--I want to tell you this because I feel it today, the way I felt then uh, I mean that feeling is staying with me. You know, people were going to Israel with big cartons, with things, with machinery, with refrigerator and we had nothing. I want you to know that we had a little tiny box when we came to the United States. And I thought, "What am I going to do? What are we..." I was the head, although I had a older sister I, for some reason uh, became the head of the family. And it was very sad, I, I did wanted to go to Israel but I thought, "My God, these people go with a fortune and we go naked and barefoot and where will we be, who will take care of us?" Here my uncle wrote such warm letters and especially Rosa how he wanted to convince her to come to, to uh, Israel, I mean to America. "You are the only left over family and why shouldn't I be with you? Why shouldn't you be with me? And uh, you are so young, you need to be educated and this is the possibility that I can give you, the opportunity. And please don't, don't do this to me and don't do this to your sisters, and come here." And we decided--oh she came on a children's quota here and a couple years later we came. It was very hard without any knowledge of the language and uh, not having previous experience in life, not uh, having any profession. Uh, my uncle was wonderful to us. Uh, eventually I went to a sewing factory, which I had no idea of any sewing. As a matter of fact, I used to hate sewing at home and knew of every girl was supposed to know how to mend stockings I never learned because my mother used to say that I'm allergic to a needle. And there was a time when she told the maid not to fix anything for me, that it's high time I should learn uh, which I never did. And suddenly, I'm sewing; I'm working in a sewing factory. My sister--younger sister went to another uh, factory and my older sister went to Israel because she met a man who she married. And uh, after awhile she came here, the marriage didn't work out anyhow. We went through quite a hell. Even being here, it was quite hard. Uh, we stayed with my uncle for a little while, but then my uncle rented for us a room with a lady who was very nice to us. But uh, then my cousin came and we lived with my cousin uh, until we got married.

You met your husband in the United States?

I met my husband the first day of night school. We came--Wednesday and Thursday I went to night school. And I met my husband and uh, we started to go out, but we were not serious at all. We were just school friends. And then uh, after the summer we had to go to different schools. I went where I lived and he went where he lived and in the meantime my sister met her husband and uh, they became very serious. They got engaged. And I, I met my husband again after the uh, summer school at the dance. And uh, I started to go out, out with him. At my sister's wedding, my younger sister and I got engaged and we had a double wedding. And the whole city of Cleveland, without invitations, hearing that two sisters from Europe are getting married at a double wedding, the whole city came, to the extent that we couldn't walk through to the aisle. My veil was pulled off. It was full of people. Just curiosity brought people to that wedding. It was in the early '50s.

Did you uh, encounter any anti-Semitism in this country?

Yes, plenty of it. Yes, a lot. Yes. I, I was very aware of it from the very beginning. Not the kind that I came in contact in Poland but uh, yes I did. Definitely.

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