Voice/Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive

Irene Sobel - September 8, 1998

Mother Returns

And your sister?

Halina. And, you know, I'm, I'm reliving it right now too because I'm writing about that episode in my book. I'm right now in the process of doing it, so it's kind of fresh how she was telling--fresh in my memory--she was telling how she kept in each of her pockets notes of our names and more or less where we were because she felt that her chances for survival and her chances for dropping dead there were equal. I remember when she came--and we didn't know that she would be coming. When she came, my sister and I were standing over a large wooden laundry tub. They had those, like you would take a huge barrel and cut it off like, I don't know, maybe a few feet tall and this is what was used to do the laundry. And my sister and I--and my sister is five years older--we were standing and doing the laundry and it was standing on, on some stools. The first thing my mother did is took my clothes off and put me in the tub. Apparently I needed it more than the laundry.

What did you say when you saw her?

You know, I just remember being excited, "Mama! Mama!" I remember nothing else. And uh, and somehow it is amazing, when life is so stressful how children can survive mentally, isolate themself from the stresses and be able to totally escape them and forget them for brief periods of time. When I was with other children in the woods, I felt a child. When I came back into our cabin, then I was missing my mother. But somehow life went on for me. My father was working in Białystok, trying to get some work, because again it was a question of, of supporting. No one--there were no subsidy of any kind. We just got the thing. And he was working in Białystok. Usually he was coming, I think, home at night. But on that day there must have been some talk about Russians raiding the place and shipping people out. There were some rumors, something going on and my mother and father advi...decided that he would stay in town for a few days. That they were taking men to, to labor camps.

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