Voice/Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive

Martin Koby - April 20, 1999


In--where, in Bytom?

In Bytom.

All right. Had, had it become part of the Soviet Union yet?

Not now.


It was Poland.

It still was...

It still was Poland.

Independent Poland. Okay.

And uh, I met one--uh, uh, uh, I met Ms. Ilona Weissburger. Ilona Weissburger surprised was in--with the father and mother and sister were in the Soviet Union. I--this is the first time I mentioned it okay?

Yeah, all right, yeah.

Her father was a dentist in Poland before the war. And they went to Russia. They survived in Russia. They were going back home to Krakow. But they were shipped to Bytom. You know, you had to have uh, permission. There was--where, where they were--but we--in Rovno, I went with her to school. In fact, I--we discussed this yesterday with Florence.

She's in--she's a Detroiter?

Who? Weissburger?


No, no.


She lives in Israel somewheres.

Okay. So...

Ilona Weissburger lived uh, uh, was in Rovno and we went to school together, to this Russian, Soviet school. She, myself and there was a girl--my--Pinhaus's--you know, my cousin, Pinhaus's cousin, also a Shainbojm, but I never knew them before, you know. I didn't know Pinhaus's relatives, because they lived you know, far away, 100 miles--100 kilometers. You know, you...


...don't run around as a kid to go visit your cousin's cousins. So there was Rose Sh...Shainbojm, Ilona Weissburger, myself, we were in this class. And I think we're the only western Jews in the school. Oh, wait, maybe Ilona's sister, yeah.

The only western Jews--the only Jews, you mean?

Only western Jews. Because among them, in that school, was strictly for the officialdom, Russian. Everything was taught in Russian.


Ukrainian was a foreign language.


But if you went to the city you know, the rest of it--everything was Ukrainian and Russian is a foreign language.

Okay. So...

My teacher--my tutor, that my father hired, Aron Wolfovitch Krejanik was his name, recommended--because we didn't know--I think my parents didn't know that we were able to get out. He recommended that we start right...


...you know, establish the right contacts. Now I know what was going on. Then I didn't understand.

Your trying to get out, you think it was?

Pardon? To get up, not out.


You go among Russian students, you learn the language. You know, you all know all that. And you, you know, you establish contact. You know, you go with all these people. All the--he knew but we didn't know, all these children, all these Russian high school kids were the children of the representatives of the--of the government. I mean, everybody works for the government. But they were like the police department, the railroads, the schools. They, they started to run that, because...

So without knowing some of these people, you probably wouldn't be able to--is that what he was thinking ???

Yeah, but he was think--you know, he knew because he was in Russia, so he knew you have to have contacts you know, in order to, to advance in that society.


So when I came to Bytom and we lived on this street called Dzerzjinksi, I go down the street one day, guess who's sitting in a window on the first floor? Ilona Weissburger! I said, "Hello," blah, but we--later on we became better friends. What--why did I say that?

Because um, you were telling me what happened when you went to Bytom.

Yeah, that's how...


...we ended up--you, you know, they shipped us just then and up to Bytom. That's where I met Ilona.

Well, you had--again?

Again, yes. Because they left ahead of us. See, they were--I don't know how it was, but they were a step--always. Because even she left for Israel a step ahead of us.

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