Voice/Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive

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


What about your father stealing these beets?

Oh, you see, in '43, you were so hungry you would eat anything. Well, my mom was pregnant at the time and she needed some food. And so we discovered these beets. Now the government grows them and you can't take them. But you need fuel to cook with. And the prairies are, humongous prairies there. And they grow these tall weeds. And in the summer they dry up, so you can cut it...


...and bring 'em home , you make bundles and you use it as a fuel. Well, my father discovered that. He also discovered there are fields not far away from these prairies that they grow sugar beets. So he would get up in the middle of the night like, take my sister with him. It was very dangerous because he had already a background as a felon because he was in, in prison.

So you must have thought he would be killed next.

Well, not killed, but he could have been arrested. They would go out into the fields. They would cut the dry straw. They would dig up beets, put it in between, make a bundle, put it on their back and come home supposedly picking, the, the uh, twigs for fuel.

Did they ever get caught?

No, otherwise he would have been finished. Thanks God. They would come, like they would start out at one in the morning. Um, it would, it would be lucky if there would be a moon, you know...


...it was easier. And they would come home maybe around four--four-thirty--five o'clock because it was far, it wasn't like under your nose. You had to walk a few kilometers.

So they'd bring the beets home, then what would you do with them?

And then my mom would prepare. She would make uh, first of all she would boil 'em, so the water is sweet. So you drink it, it's delicious you see. Then she would make, um...


No, no, you can't make borscht from it.

But isn't the juice like borscht?

Uh, no, it's a different taste. But she would take the beet, she would grate 'em. She would make, like pancakes for them or she would just slice it and she would bake it on top of the stove and you would eat it. And uh, this is what my brother actually came out from is the beets. Yeah, yeah. That's why he grew to be six four. A terrific guy.

So you're, you're on your way back. You go to Kharkov, Kharkov first.

We go to Kharkov first, yes. We got to Kharkov and uh, the, the train doesn't stop, it only slows down. So while it slows down you throw down your belongings and we jump off. And, uh...

And you did that.

And we did that. And then we stayed in Kharkov, I don't remember how long. Uh, I remember helping my aunt cook, peel potatoes and clean um, oh how do you say this in English--uh, the stomach of a cow. That's a thousand little layers and you boil it and you clean it and then you cook it and you eat it. It's delicious. Tripe, that's what it's called...

Tripe, right?

Yeah, tripe.

You ate tripe?

Yes, it's very good. Uh, but to clean it it's tough. I had tripe in, in Paris. We traveled, myself and my husband.

That's a great delicacy.

Right. And when I told the waiter that I'd like to have the tripe stew he was, he says, "Oh you want tripes too?" He says, "You know what it is?" I said, "Yes, I do." He was surprised that I know. And I didn't want to tell him that I cleaned it one time when I was a little kid. It's a tough job to clean it, you know. It has a thousand little layers and you have to clean the skin off of each layer.


Tripe. And so uh, we were there for awhile and then we packed up...

[interruption in interview]

© Board of Regents University of Michigan-Dearborn