Voice/Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive

Vera Gissing - April 22, 2006

Experience at Summer Camp

This is how your book opens.


This is how your book opens.

Yes. And um, we had a--I, I went to this camp by a lovely river--the most beautiful countryside and there were lake, kids all around me and we were tobogganing uh, not tobogganing--we were canoeing and um, and um, hiking and digging mushrooms and doing so many lovely things. And uh, then suddenly I injured my big toe of my right foot and it turned infected. And um, suddenly instead of enjoying myself, it was all bandaged up and I was confined to a wheelchair and there was me sitting watching everyone else enjoying themselves. And I was so miserable and I cried and the counselor who came to me and she said to me, "Why are you crying, little girl?" And I said, "Well, look, look at my foot. What should I do, laugh?" And she said, "What is your name?" And I said, "Vera Diamant," which in Czech, of course, was "Věruška Diamantova." And so she looked at me and she said, "Ah, you are a diamond. You must be crying real pearls." And, you know, it made me feel important and grown up. I mean, I knew I wasn't crying pearls, but I thought it was rather lovely thing to say, and I thought "I'm not going to be a misery, and I'm not going to write to my mum and ask her to come and fetch me, I'm going to stick it out."

Even though you, you said you were homesick.

Well, I was homesick because uh, because I couldn't do anything, you know, and um, and when a kid is in pain, he or she wants his mummy, you know. Anyway, when mum--when my mother came to fetch me at the end of the month, she exclaimed in horror at the very si...sight of me. And she said--when I showed her my poor old toe, she said, "It must hurt ever so much. Didn't you cry?" And I said, "Of course I didn't, I only shed pearls." And this made her think "That little girl of mine isn't tied to my skirts anymore. She can be brave, she can be independent." And I know for certain that if it hadn't been for that experience, eight months later she wouldn't have let me come to England, and I wouldn't be sitting here today talking. So it was a very, very important incident and it gave the right title to my autobiography, because the pearls of childhood--or pearls of childhood tie into my childhood tears.

It's a beautiful story.

Thank you.

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