Voice/Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive

Helena Manaster - December 9, 1983

Leaving the Monastery


Where was your husband at this point?

Oh, he was uh, in Kraków. Oh, I used to see him occasionally walking out in the street, but uh, we were not together.

You weren't together?

No. He had um, because he still got underground help, so he was to find a place where he can get--instead of walking the street and that's how it was. But I still--I didn't survive in that monastery. When Arthur was seven months old, I had to leave it because of uh, that--Arthur--it really came to a head--was one day I opened--the morning--I opened the door, to bring in water or something and at the door was attached mezuzah. Somebody wanted to give me the message he knows who I was. But I didn't have where to go. I took it off at the door. It was just the shape of mezuzah, you know, mezuzah in the old country used to look like uh, blue wrapping paper with an opening for the finger where you touch it and you say Shaddai ???


You know. They--somebody touched it, then other people suspected me of being Jewish and whoever had quarrels--you had people from all kinds of walk of life, you know, different places in the country. They said they are going to the nuns--they understand that Jews are hiding here. After the war I heard that there was somebody else in hiding, an elderly man who I knew. He used to tell me stories how he prayed to the Virgin Mother and to Jesus and they helped him to survive.

Helped him survive...

Yeah, but he was Jewish too. I don't know what happened to him because I had to leave it. That Tadeusz came one day, he said, "The Gestapo will be here tomorrow, so it's better for you to leave."

He was giving you the message that he...

Yes, he knew. No, it wasn't a message, it was a warning. He was really very sympathetic It was the one who Arthur was named after him. So I left and it was, it was August '44, it was still a half a year 'til the end of the war. And this was a very, very bad time. Now I was with a baby uh, Krisha I had to leave there, they wouldn't have given me anything. I didn't have where to take to him. I had to leave her and I had to--later a Polish family took care of her and adopted her. And then it started, really I would say, with Arthur for six months, here two weeks, there a week, there a month, from place to place. I, I cannot even describe it. I don't know how I could survive this.

Moving from so many places?

From so many places, with a little which had no shelter, no food, of course I nursed him as much as I could ??? And then I lived for a few months uh, in uh, a place. There was a young woman, she was half-Jewish and she uh, was very much involved in the underground movement. Her father was a Polish officer who was in England during the war. And her mother was Jewish. Her mother was hiding in another place so she had that apartment. Her mother was--said that I am relative from the father's side if anyone would ask because the neighbors see you. So I lived there like in the lion's den. It was better than in the street. We were liberated in January of '45...

I see.

...in Kraków and there we stayed.

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