Voice/Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive

Irene Sobel - September 8, 1998

Moving into Krakow Orphanage

She couldn't care for you.

She couldn't care for me, she couldn't work. She lived--my sister married in, before we went back to Poland. She was eighteen and this boy whom my father met was two years older and they were married. My mother lived with them in one, in the same room plus another few people in Krakow and again they formed, they were assisted by some Jewish organization there. And I ended up in the orphanage and many times I thought what my life would have been if my father were alive. And my mother many times said how her life would have been different if her husband would have been alive. He was a go-getter, he knew how to manage in situations and he had very good skills, which he could find work. And that, and I remember walking the streets of Krakow in the evening, in particular where the lights could be seen in the homes of people and I would wonder what goes on in those apartments and I would wonder how it is to live in a home with a father and mother. I shared a room with about uh, eight girls in a orphanage in Krakow. It was not a bad experience, other than being institutionalized. It was a very positive experience for me. Positive in that a lot of my strengths developed there. I don't know if you heard of a educator, ??? Russian educator?


And his ideas of children's orphanages and self-governing. Uh, very much the way we were handled were very much influenced by his approach. And we, of course, also Korczak. We had a self-government.

??? Korczak?

Korczak. The one who led the children...

Yeah, but what was the relationship?

That, the love and caring for children...

But were people reading his work?

They were, yes. We heard a lot about, yes I read...

About children's rights.

Children's rights, yes. Anyway we had a government in that orphanage with ministers for one activity or another. I have a strong hunch that it was not a very democratic election. That the educators, those in charge of the orphanage had a strong influence. Anyway, for a number of years I was president of the government. And uh, I heard over and over my mother's statement. As a child I remember my mother would say to me, and not just my mother but others would say to me, "You are going to be a leader like your father. You are going to be a leader like your father."

[interruption in interview]

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