Voice/Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive

Helena Manaster - December 9, 1983

Life in Post-War Poland

Yes, but talking about discrimination and persecuting Jews after the war, there was--we were liberated in '45 and in the same year, there was um, they call it a pogrom, like used to be those pogroms in Russia and Kiev and Slovenia. There was a pogrom in Russia, small place like Kielce. They killed off uh, several families. They lived in two buildings and they just killed everybody--children--everybody. They were people who came back from Russia, happy to be liberated and come back to Poland and be killed. And there was a, there was a lot of unrest. Jews didn't settle anymore in the small places, just in big cities, like Kraków, Warsaw, Wroclaw. Uh, in Kraków in some ??? another place there was a lot of unrest. I don't know whether there were any cases of that, but I know there was a lot of unrest with Jews. The atmosphere was like a pogrom. People were afraid to go out. But...

Do you remember your thoughts at Kielce, when that happ...when you heard about it?

Well, it was in the papers. It took several days or even one week but some papers came out to protest--to say something about why the government didn't interfere, why did they allow to do that? Because they just uh, let them do it.

It's an old pattern.

Still the police came because everybody was dead. Now this was in '45. Then things calmed down and people settled, back from uh, different places, mainly from Russia. Because whoever was liberated by the English, or the Americans, they went to the West and they never come back home. Then was again, in '56 when Gomu?ka took over was also an unrest and always this effect Jews.


And uh, but, the biggest anti-Semitism came back in '67. We left Poland in '68. It did have some connection with the Six Day War in Israel. Uh, Russia broke the relationship with Israel and so did uh, Poland. The people who were in the Israel Embassy left Poland. All their affairs were taken over by the Dutch Consulate. It was a very, very bad time. Once was a big speech of Gomu?ka and was always almost like that atmosphere with people waiting there might be a pogrom. This they don't need too much. And...

Need to feel the atmosphere...

But the outcome of this was like this: he said he opened the door there and Jews are free to go. I mean, there were a lot of restrictions and that, but at least you could leave the country. And the Dutch Consulate wanted--it was said that the way was to Israel through Vienna. But you had to register and we got a one-way ticket and no passport. Just a travel document. What else you have to give up or ask them to release us from citizenship so we were stateless...

I see.

'Til we got American citizenship. We were stateless.

At the end of the, end of the war, what made you decide to stay in Poland, especially after the pogroms?

Yes, that's a good question. I really didn't want to stay there. I--whoever survived in my family--it was a brother and I had cousins in Chicago too. But, my husband, somehow wasn't ready to go. And I still don't understand it why. We had um, papers and an affidavit in '45. It was right after the war. Then we had to ??? the next time it was in '58 and we even had--we went for a visit to the Consule and he have us a permission--a promise for visas. It was almost everything ready to, to leave the country. And uh, my husband, says again, "I'm not ready yet." But then came '68 and I said, "I'm not waiting anymore." He still wasn't ready. My uh, are children grown almost old then. The youngest was twelve-years-old. And they wanted to go because it was a time that everybody who felt the Jewish left the country. Only old people right now, was there 2,000 people...

Yes, it's almost...

It was almost Judenfrei.


So, I said, "This time I'm not waiting any longer. If you are not ready, you will come whenever you are ready." And I was happy that the children wanted to go. And we all left in '68.

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