Voice/Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive

Esther Feldman Icikson - October 23 & 29, November 5 & 12, 2001

Talking About Experience

When you came here, did you tell anybody about your experiences in Siberia or in?

Oh, sometimes I would mention, but I wouldn't talk to...

uption in interview]

You didn't talk very much.

Oh sometimes I'll men... I'll tell you people, you, people are kind of impressed when I mention them that I was in Siberia and we came out on a raft because it's so unusual. Um, and I think I always uh, present it as, as kind of, like, a, almost a fun thing, not a very depressed thing. And it's really not so depressing, if you think of it. It's very uh, emotional in a way because--for, for us it was--but you can almost uh, think of it as an adventure. Going out on a raft and all that. Uh, sometimes--when I was single I didn't talk about it, I don't think so.

Did you ever feel that you wanted to talk about it but nobody wanted listen?



No. You know what, I, I... No. No, people usually, if we start talking, people will, on a con...people will want to listen, they say, tell us, "Tell us Esther." Uh, you know. No, no. People, people are receptive actually.

But you didn't want to talk about it.

You know if it, if it would come up in, in, in the course of conversation I wouldn't mind saying a few words, but I, I don't bend backwards to, to tell the story.

Did you tell your children?

Oh yeah, oh yes. My kids know my stories. Um, I think I mentioned it to you that when Leah was, my daughter, when she went to kindergarten--she started very early, she was, her, her birthday's in December so she was, like, four and a half years old, four and nine months old when she started in September, school. Um, months later she had come one day home, she says, "Mommy I am so lucky." "Why Leah?" "Because you're my mommy." "Why are you so lucky?" "Because you have such exciting stories. My friends' mommies don't tell 'em those stories." Uh, I, I, I would tell them uh, my stories. I'd make it very exciting and uh, you know my stories. I think it's interesting, it's special, it's different. I don't think my story is as tragic or as frightening as their father's is, you see and they know their father's story. And their father is terrific in telling the story. Um, he told his story to the children when they were very little. Uh, he, he would make it sound so funny, you know. And uh, they know how terrible it was and yet you know, it--they accepted it very easily. They weren't frightened by it or. But my story's not frightening like that. You see, it was not easy. Life was not easy at all. It was very difficult. Just the other day my sister was here for the weekend because we had a bat mitzvah in my husband's family. And I was talking to my sister and we were talking how brave and how smart my mom was. My mom was not an educated woman. But she was so smart in life, in everyday life. When we were so hungry in '43, she went out into the fields and she picked green leaves and she sauteed them and we ate it. Turned out it were--it was uh, endives. Now, not everybody knew about it that it's safe to eat. But she did. She was a farm girl and she knew all these things. She went and she picked wild garlic. I mean, when she gave us these endives, they were delicious. She, she sauteed them with a little salt. When I went out with my husband and he took me to a fancy restaurant and he ordered a steak for me and next to it was this little green leaf and I took it in my mouth and I couldn't believe it, and I said to him, "You know, I ate this before. Only when I ate it, it was cooked." And he started laughing, he says, "How could you?" I says, "I did, I, I will tell you where I ate it. I ate this in '43 when my mom went into the fields and she picked it and she cooked it, she steamed it for us. And she saved our lives." She, she had such a wisdom. She knew so much, not only in cooking, but in every aspect.

She had an instinct for life.

An instinct. She was so smart, she guided us in the right direction. And yet she was illiterate. She couldn't sign even her name. She learned it here in the United States.

Did she meet your son-in-law?

Oh yeah, Ricky knows Bobe Bronchele, that's what uh, my children call, sure.

Now he thinks that your story is extraordinary.

He thinks so?


That's because I'm his shviger you know what shviger is? Mother-in-law. He, he's been calling me that since he married my daughter.

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