Voice/Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive

Martin Koby - April 20, 1999

On Being happy

There's a place in um, Wiesel wrote an article once where he said, if you ask a survivor if he's happy, no matter what he says he's going to--he's lying. Yes if I'm happy, of course, I've got a family. Well, my other family maybe is all gone, how could I be happy, or...

Maybe, maybe happy...

No, how could I be happy--my, my family was all killed. Well, I have this family. So no matter what they say, it's uh, it's yes and no.

You know, I--coming here I was listening to--my radio in the car doesn't work, so I don't want to fix it, so I play cassettes. Today I picked up on one side, on one side a gypsy song, Russian gypsy music and on one side is Yiddish songs.


So I was listening to the gypsy song. On this particular cassette there's two Ukraine--national--let's say ethnic Ukrainian songs you know, but they--gypsy you know, violins and the balalaikas and all this thing. I never thought about it before. It--those two songs really bothered me. You know, I, I grew up in the Ukraine, but these two particular songs, they were just like, like a standard thing to me that's--this is part--I associate my culture or my upbringing or something. I love them. I like those songs. And I know that the Ukrainians were not too kind to us Jews.

So the Yiddish songs, are they also a part of you?

Oh, yeah, a lot of the--of--in a different way.


The Yiddish songs were acquired when I was already a teenager you know, maybe, maybe eighteen, nineteen, twenty. There were very few songs that I knew in Yiddish before, before the war.

But yet you spoke--your family spoke Yiddish?

Yiddish, absolutely sure, we spoke--Yiddish was you know, number one, because that's all we talked in the house or at my relatives too.

Well, what--did your father consider himself a Ukrainian?


Did you?


But, but yet, you identify with the culture to some degree?


Hm. Why, why do you suppose not?

Uh, I don't know. I don't think we were allowed to call ourselves Ukrainians.

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