Voice/Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive

Martin Koby - April 20, 1999

Russian Occupation

How did he know?

I never heard him sing that. I never heard him whistle that. He never ever mentioned to it. The question is, how could he have learned so fast? But I came--I found the solution. I, I think. It's probably what, what happened. My cousins and my uncles used tease my father about his work during World War I. Somewheres in 1914, maybe 1915 or '16, World War I, you know. And I figured out that he was--if he was born in 1898, in 1914, he was sixteen years old. In 1915, he was, what, seventeen. 1918, was twenty years old. Or somewheres there, in those years when he worked--when he was--what did he do, the work? The Russian Czars were building bridges across the Pripet Marshes. You know, they built them, like, under the water?


Just you know, maybe a foot below the water level you know, the surface of the water. My father was a timekeeper. Because I--in the--it's very possible. What he wrote, you could not figure out--he couldn't read it himself. Here in the United States already. He used to say, "What did I write down?" Because he used--all the letters used the same--I mean, were the same. When he was a clerk so, he didn't have--so I figured it out, what happened. Because my cousins and my uncles--back to I repeat. He said, "Anschel, who did you pay or who didn't you pay? Or who got paid that never came to work?" Because you know, they went to the village and they said, "We need so many men to work on the bridge." That--all able-bodied men came to work.


But when they used to come to work, there were no time clocks. There were no uh, punches, there were no uh, badges. Anschel wrote um, wrote you know, who came in. Whoever came to work, you made a note.


I mean, make a list. And write it--and you make a check off. You didn't have--he said he always had bundles of paper. And they used--he knew--we used to sit at the--you know, we used to get together with dinner or visiting, tea, cake and cookies and sit around. And he used--he used to--well, he says, "So what? Somebody got paid, that Czar has enough money." So, so I figured that sometime during World War I, he picked it up. He must have learned because you know, the war spread back and forth.


And so some...

He may have been with the Socialists or with the Communists?

No, no. Absolutely--he was apolitical.

Even during the war?

Even during the war.

It was smart to teach you "The Internationale"?

Yeah. But you know, I got a Russian--from these new Russians that are coming now, the Russian Jews, we got some music you know, ???. And there's one in there where these guys it's on a, on a tape, where the guys make a joke and they--there's a Russian song called "Chizhik Pyzhik." "Chizhik Pyzhik", where were you, you know. And you answer you know, ??? um, ??? and uh, ??? bizarre. "And what did you do there?" He said, "you drank vodka." So that you know, they'd put the tune of "The Internationale" to this "Chizhik Pyzhik" song.

Oh, I see.

And they sit you know and joke about it. It's funny. ???. So that's what prompted me...

So when you, you were what, nine years old when you learned "The Internationale" from your father? 1939, the Russians came in.

Uh, yeah. Around 1939--1940 could be. I don't know exactly. Sometimes that first year when they came.

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