Voice/Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive

Irene Sobel - September 8, 1998

Being Malnourished

The boys.

The boys. And I know that it was an enormous indignation that she experienced. I asked my brother-in-law how the orphanage survived, where were we getting food. And he told me how they tried to uh, get on good terms with the leader of the Communist party. They, referring whoever was the adults in the orphanage. And whatever food they were able to obtain was through the leaders of the Communist party. They would send a order to a pea...to a village, give them two barrels of one thing or another, give them two bags of, of grain. Or at one time, even I understand it, give them a lamb. And if the uh, and I will use the term kolkhoz, it was a communal farm--objected, he says you better do it, and they had to do it. So it was kind of a begging from one village to another getting some food. And there were some very limited supplies gotten through to some international uh, agencies. But this is another time when we were very hungry. The food that we get, or that we got often were soup with a few pieces of pumpkin floating in a bowl of water. We were all very skinny. From malnutrition all the women stopped menstruating. No woman was menstruating during that period. And I remember having an enormous abdomen, distended. And I would stand up and entertain us and I would jump and the water was shaking like you would take a bottle of water and, and swooshing it and I could hear the shaking and I thought it was funny. Uh, I was not that self-conscious about it. But I remember after the war--and now how old was I in '45, thirteen? Okay. My mother took me in Poland to a physician, and he in my presence said, "I think she will grow, she has a good chance to grow up to be normal." Okay. But somehow in spite of the hunger and in spite of the conditions, somehow life had its joys too for children. I went to school and uh, I was very much enjoying and involved in the choir. I was told that I had a good voice. And I was very much involved in dancing. Another girl and I improvised various dances and when it came to school celebration, we were the performers. My mother told me later on that some Russian talent scout came to her and wanted to take me to a school of dance to some large city. That they would provide everything for me. But she didn't want to agree because she knew that she would never see me again.

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