Voice/Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive

Emerich Grinbaum - October 3, 2000 & January 8, 2001

Soviet Rule

Of the Ukraine, okay.

Right. Part of Ukraine. The Soviet Union. USSR.

You know, there's a history of the Ukrainians just published. It's the first history of the Ukrainians in English.

Uh, interesting. No, that was Ukraine, but you know the language bilingual. There were schools Ukrainian schools and Russian schools, you know. So I went to Russian school but we, we learned the Ukraine also. I speak Ukrainian fluently as well as Russian.

But your friends you said were Hungarian.

Yes, most of the friends were Hungarians.

But they didn't identify as Hungarians any more, they couldn't.

They, they did.

They did. Not as Ukrainians.

No. They were Ukrainian. And they were some people they uh, mixed as Ukrainian, they were some. But they--those who, I have couple of good friends and still I have connections with them. And I, I see, they moved to Hungary, some of them they move Hungary. I see them when I go to Hungary.

Now if it wasn't dangerous to be a Jew anymore, it would seem to me to be dangerous to be anti-Communist.

Uh, I tell you. No.

But anti-Communism is another story.

Yeah, but we didn't vocalize. We' didn't...

[interruption in interview]

So tell me about COMSOMOL.

No. The COMSOMOL was you know, that, everybody. First of all we studied all the Communist uh, in the high school and later on we spent fifty percent of our studies, especially in the medical school of different Communist uh, studies you know, Marxism, Leninism, history of the Communist party, political economy, whatever, you know.

Do you remember what COMSOMOL stood for?

COMSOMOL um, ??? something, ??? Communist Youth Organization, something.

Yeah, okay.

Now, matter of fact, majority of the children they were, they entered the COMSOMOL during the--in the high school. We were reluctant so we entered the first year in the medical school. But we had to and, and that, sooner or later, we knew that. I tell you, I graduated in '49 and at that time was already uh, consensus that they took very few Jews to the higher education, very few Jews. There was no open, but we knew that the Jews to get in, especially to medical school or uh, others--certain places were easier. But uh, for instance, music, musical school, musical uh, institutions were easier. Uh, mathematics was easier. Military, forget about that. Some people wanted some kind military or political or diplomatic. Practically closed. Medical was very difficult.

So you were still identified as a Jew, even though there was no...

Sure, yeah. In Russia you know, uh, uh, on the contrary, for instance, in Hungary they didn't say Jews in the, the passport. In Russia that was the fourth question. Nationality. Not religion. Religion was...

Was dead.

Nationality. Your race. That's what everybody knew. Your race, that was written there. And there was--very few were taken. We were lucky, we were lucky. I know, if not that uh, we were not ha...didn't have too much chance to get in.

Both you and your brother?


Both of you went into med school?

Yeah, both, both. A brother also, he was a year later. Those who graduated high school with this distinction, they uh, they got uh, access to any higher institution in the Soviet Union. So I could go to Moscow. I, I graduated--I was thank God, thank God I graduated all, all distinction, gold medal, you know. And I had, I could go to Moscow the best m...uh, medical school in Moscow--Leningrad. But at that time we were very much afraid to go to that far. Russia was like, like you know, far. Later on ??? but the first year there was the, only local. Fortunately they opened the, a, an university next to Munkacs in Ungvar--Uzhgorod. And that was a, not a good school, but because they're beginner you know, small school. But okay, we went there, so.

Do you think there was a sense among the three of you, that um, you didn't want to be separated again?

Oh sure. We never, we never were separated. We didn't want to go far away. Ungvar was forty, forty kilo--forty-two kilometers and we could come every weekend almost to, to visit my father.

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