Voice/Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive

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

Journey to Kyrgyzstan

The following is a continuation of an interview with Mrs. Esther Feldman Icikson at her home in West Bloomfield, Michigan on November 12, 2001 and the interviewer is still Sidney Bolkosky.

This is in Kyrgyzstan?


And the name of the village again?

I don't remember the name of the village. But uh, um, no we were further down, I think. We--didn't we talk about the city? Uh, uh, Belo...Belovodsk.

You just--I think you mentioned Belovodsk.

Okay, well, um.

When you were traveling from, from Siberia to Kyrgyzstan...


This was by train?

This is by train yes, and we, we were on a train. I don't remember how long until we came to Kyrgyzstan. And they--I think I told you that--they transported us during the night to this village and uh, they were, native Kyrgyz lived there. And uh, we wound up in, in a house uh, with a young couple. And we, we stayed in their kitchen. I, I think I told you, um.

And they treated you very nicely.

They treated us very nicely. Um, they were very kind and they, they really were good to us. Uh, the government made them take in the refugees from uh, various places that came in into Kyrgyzstan. They came from everywhere. But most of the people that came, I think, came really from Siberia.

When you were on the train, was it crowded, was it cold?

Um, it was crowded and cold, yes, it was. Um, the train was supplied by the government and uh, it--we didn't have to pay for the--for it because the transported us from one place to the other. Um, I do not remember the trip very well, I don't know why. Certain trips I remember better than others for some reason. I guess it--there was nothing particular exciting on that particular one.

So you weren't frightened on that one.

No, I wasn't frightened because we were already together with my daddy and my uh, the whole family was together, um. So I think I might have felt kinda secure because daddy was there to take care of us. And uh, in the village, it was very nice uh, uh. They have uh, very interesting rituals and uh, I, I don't know if I told that during our stay somebody passed away and the ritual of burying the, the dead with them is very special. Um, one night we heard tremendous loudly, loud uh, noises, screams and cries. We didn't know what, we'll, what's happening. We found out the next morning that somebody passed away. And they--like, it's like a celebration for a whole week. They ate, they killed their um, sheep and cook and eat. And uh, they bury their dead sitting up, by the way and give their dead some of the worldly goods to have for this other world where they go. Um, they give them uh, utensils to eat with uh, uh, to care of themselves like a comb or you know, all kind of things like this. And this is all buried with them. It was very interesting.

So what did you think about all that?

Oh I was very impressed as a little girl. I couldn't believe it, I mean. It was a little frightening because um, uh, I've never seen anything like it. Uh, the good part about it was that they fed us. Wonderful food! They cooked outdoors uh, lamb and... It was really a wonderful feast, um. They cried, they're sad, but they're also happy for some reason, I don't know uh, how this blends with them, but, um. I don't understand quite the cultural--I didn't learn about that culture. But they, they are sad, they scream and cry, but they also eat and rejoice and, and the whole village takes part in this occasion.

Do you think any Jews stayed there?

No, I don't think so. Uh, we've never seen Jews there except the ones that came with us as uh, newcomers, as refugees.

And they kept going.

Uh, the refugees that came made all the effort to get out of there. It wasn't the kind of a life a, a European person was used to. Um, they, they lived differently. I mean uh, they sleep on the floor, they eat on the floor, they uh, their foods are differently. Their way of life is completely so different. Um, some of their homes are built from uh, mortar and, and, and brick, but others are built from straw, like huts. Um, they make their, their jackets of fur coats from the lambs that they kill.

You said they raise sheep.

Yeah, the sheep, yeah, they, they salvage everything, yes, uh. They're very good horse riders. Yeah.

So how long were you there?

Not very long. We might have been there three--four weeks maybe. Maybe not even that long. And then my dad managed, I don't know how--he managed to get transportation. He found a room in Belovodsk, which was a city, nice size city. And um, he rented a room. We lived on Komsomolskaya, that was the name of the street. I think the first number that we lived on was 96. And um, we moved there, the whole family. By now my mom was pregnant with my youngest brother. And um, we stayed there for quite awhile. Actually, I think--no my youngest brother wasn't born there. Now I don't remember where he was born, if he was born in that... Maybe he was. He might have been born on that, in that particular room that we lived in. Um, my dad found a job and he started working a little bit and then they opened a factory to make clothes--I think I told you about that already--for the soldiers and my dad was hired as the, the teacher and the manager of this little factory and he taught a whole slew of young women--girls mostly, because the men weren't there, they were fighting for their country, to make clothes for the soldiers. Um, this was actually a break for my father and I would say a break for the whole family because suddenly my dad had a job. He was also kind of like an important person because he, he made connections. Connections in Russia are very important in those days. Um, he, he worked very hard, day and night, I mean, because my dad was religious he wanted to have the Sabbath off. In Russia it's not heard of. I mean, absolutely not heard of. He managed though. He would work day in, day out to two--three o'clock in the morning. But comes Friday late in the afternoon he would come home and Saturday he would be home, and he would keep the Sabbath.

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