Voice/Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive

Irene Petrinetz - October 25, 1982

Finding Family

What was her name?

Her name was Aunt Frida. That she didn't recognize me and when she saw my hand laying on the sheet, her heart went out because it was just like a stick. Skinny. It wasn't the girl who left a year ago. Next day I started to pick up my life. I didn't know how. I started to look for my family. There was nobody. Our house was torn apart. No furniture. No nothing. Several armies went through. Hungarian. German. Russian. There was no home. Everything was gone. I started to pick up pieces, fixing up a room for myself to stay. There still wasn't any train or mail. People started to get around already going from places -- place to place. Someone told me, brought me message, that my brother is alive and looking for me. I ask the person if he's going back to Prague to please let my brother know that I'm alive and I'm home. He did. My brother came home, and again I pick myself up with him, together, and we went back to Prague.

What month did, did you ever reunite with your brother?

With, with, with my brother? That must have been already summer.

Summer of '45?

Summer of '45. Summer...

And you remember who told you that he was alive, looking for you?

Yes. It was my husband.

Your husband-to-be?

My husband-to-be. That's how I met my husband. He was in the Czech liberating army with my brother together. He came home looking for his family, to Uzhgorod, and he was the one who told me that my brother is in Prague looking for me. And that's how I got acquainted with my husband, Alex. I knew him, but not well, before the war. And I knew his two sisters. [pause] He's here. He's twenty minutes early. I gotta get...

[interruption in interview] --not in English.

The letter that your father wrote about?


The goodbye letter to your...

Yeah. To Marcel.

Did you, did you give it to your brother at that time when you were reunited?

Somehow, I don't know how, that letter--oh--I don't know how that letter got to this country. And...

You didn't have it on you...


When you left. When you were...

No. No. No. That was mailed to him.

Oh, it was?

My father--yes.

Oh, he did mail it?

My father mailed it to him. He was in forced labor camp.

Where was he?

In Hungarian forced labor camp.

Do you know where?

I don't know whether it was in Romania, he was somewhere in Romania. Then from there I think he escape to Russia and joined--there was a general--Alex will remember his name, that Czech gener...general who uh, organized the Czech liberation army who was fighting for liberation of Czechoslovakia. There were many Jewish young men in there who volunteered and asked to be parachuted in Auschwitz, but they did not allow it. I heard about it after the war. Matter of fact, there were high-ranking Jewish officers in there. And the Jewish boys wanted to risk their lives and to be parachuted into Auschwitz to open the gates and let the people out. For what reason, whether it wasn't militarily feasible or other, I have no idea but it was not allowed. So we were liberated by the Russians. Anyway, I don't know how this letter got to this country but my uncle--my father had a brother who came to this country around 1920 after--wait a minute, no, yeah--after World War One.


He was a dog lover and the Gypsies were catching--were dog catchers in our town. One--this was told to me as a story because I wasn't born yet, but I heard many tales about it. He was quiet eh, guy. He loved animals. His dog was caught by the gypsies. The gypsies lived on the outskirts of the city. He one day during the night opened the gate and let all the dogs out including his own. So the police was looking for him and he took off. I don't know whether this was the only reason, but he took off, he left the country, and he came to United States.

What was his name?

Morris. And he was the one who sent us papers after World War II and the Holocaust for Marcel, myself, and one of his brothers, the Uncle Adolf who is still in California. He brought us to--he lived in El Paso, Texas. Actually, my mother was the one who helped him and gave him money for passage and to come to this country. And he never forgot that. He was good to us. He was nice to us. He send us all the papers. It took us three years 'til we got visa to come to this country.

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