Voice/Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive

Irene Sobel - September 8, 1998

Survival on the Tundra

What had happened to your feet? You said you had frozen your foot.

I had, my feet were frozen and eventually they healed but it took a very long time.

And now again you're walking in the snow.

Now again I am walking, but by then my feet were more or less okay. My nose got frozen once uh, in Siberia. But my feet were okay, and we were wearing uh, the jacket which were called ???, which was something like a down jacket we'd see now, but it wasn't made from down, some kind of a quilted stuff. And it was extremely cold. Your face had to be covered. Birds that for some reason didn't leave for the winter froze on trees. Uh, the snow was just--the, the cold was vicious, was vicious. Things that I remember from Siberia is the deep forest--do you call it a tundra? Yeah. Going into the tundra to pick mushrooms and berries. And I was not allowed to go by myself. Went with group, with adults. And I learned, I became a expert how you find mushrooms, in which areas they would grow and how you have to uncover uh, the moss. But I heard frightening stories about people being lost in the tundra and never getting back and always the fear that this might happen to me. At night wild animals, bears and, and boars would come up close to the building and you would see them sometimes from the windows. The story went that when the school was built, there was a bear and a cub found in the area. And that they killed the mother bear, but the cub was left there in a cage. Uh, I tried to find the cub but it wasn't there. All kinds of stories about wild animals were all over. We would hear--often we would hear wolves howling all--and again there were stories about people who were killed by wolves on the way, on the road or going from somewhere to somewhere. So we were kind of a surrounded and extremely attuned and as a kid I was very afraid of all the wild animals that are, were around us.

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