Voice/Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive

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

Memories of Pre-War Life

Do you remember any school before the war? Did you go to school?

Eh, the only time I went to school was in Russia in Kyrgyzstan when I was. There was a Polish school actually, and that's when I started going to school. I did not go to school before that.

You were too young in Chelm.

Yeah, yes. Um, I did go to nursery school in Siberia. But I was already too old to be in nursery school 'cause--it was more like a day care.


But because my mom worked there, I was allowed to go there. And I actually was helping her a little bit you know, with the kids, um...

What kinds of things, if anything, what are the memories of--you're maybe three years old then.

No, I was four almost when it started.

What do you have that you remember before the war. You have your grandfather's, the back of his head.


What about your mother? You remember your father sitting on the table.

Uh, yes. I remember my daddy interestingly enough, even... My father was a tailor and in Europe you iron with coals in the, in the iron, you know. You open the, the iron, you put in coals...


...to make a fire. And you know what I remember? That he would go very early outside and he would fan it up and down so the coals would get real hot so he can iron with it. Um, I remember that on Shabbos--on Saturday afternoon, after my... We had our lunch after my dad came home from synagogue and we had our lunch. I remember that we would go to a park. And interesting enough, I was checking it out with my brother and sister because I thought maybe it's just in my imagination because I was very little. Um, there was a main street and there were columns--white columns and there would be baskets of flowers hanging down from them. They were very pretty flowers. I don't remember whether geraniums or any kind of flowers. This I remember. And we would go to a park. There was a little, like a, a little pond or a river, I'm not sure and we would play there by the, in the, in the park by that little river uh, we would run around in the sand. This I remember. Um, I remember the first time they started bombarding Chelm. Uh, I remember we were running very fast. I had black patent shoes on and I took them off because it was very difficult to run in them. And I remember laying, laying in a field of, I think it was wheat, tall wheat, that we were hiding.

From the bombs.

Yes. My daddy was giving me a damp tissue--not a tissue, it was a handkerchief because in Europe we couldn't have tissues--and he told us to put it to our mouths and noses and not pick up our heads, have our heads real low on the ground so we can breathe. Uh, this, these, these are things I remember.

Had your father been in the First World War?

Uh, no, um.



You have very fond memories of life before the war then.


They sound very nice.

You know, I think that certain things were very lovely. I don't remember a lot. Um, I remember that right before the war started we moved to a bigger place. A, a much larger room. Uh, my mom divided it with a curtain. And you know what they had? A bulb hanging down--electricity, which was very special. Just a bulb hanging down. This I remember. Uh, what else do I remember? Oh, I remember that, in the, in the first house that we lived in that was one room, we had a stove and a big oven that was covered with tile--white tile. And that was our heating unit that, this made our house warm. It was very tall, it was maybe, I don't know, I think about maybe five--six feet tall with built-in--it was on the wall, the tiles were on the wall. The, the whole thing was, the whole unit was like built inside the wall.

And, and your mother cooked in the stove.

Not in that, no. We had a, a, like a stove on the side with two burners and you cooked with wood and coal. And that's where she cooked.

And did you speak Yiddish at home?

We spoke Yiddish.

Not Polish.

Polish, yeah.

Polish as well?



Yes. Yes.

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