*Julie Heifetz used pseudonyms for the women she interviewed.
Born in her parents's hometown of Borislav, Poland in 1940, Anna was only a year and a half old when the town became a ghetto, or forced labor camp. The Nazis ordered that all children and elderly persons were to be sent away, but Anna's parents devised a plan to hide their little girl. They built a false ceiling in one of the barracks, and Anna hid in the narrow space while her parents worked in the camp. It took a concerted effort among many people to keep Anna's presence a secret. She remembers being adored by everyone in the town, and wondering why she never got to go outside. Hidden away in the tiny attic, Anna was constantly told, "Whatever happens, you may not cry. Your life depends on it." She carried this with her throughout her life, always subordinating her own feelings to her parents, always thinking THEY were the survivors, not she. Always being told she had to have been too young to remember anything from Borislav.
Anna and her family were liberated when World War II ended. They continued to live in what was now Communist Poland, plagued by fear day in and day out. People hanged daily, screams heard in the night, children who disappeared from their beds - these are the things Anna remembers from her life in Poland after liberation. Finally, Anna's family trekked across Poland, over the border and into Czechoslavakia. Here they stayed in a DP (displaced persons) camp until a distant relative in America invited them to join him in Boston.
Anna's fantasies and dreams about America were crushed when she had to face reality in Boston. "That's what I knew about America, Red Cross boxes with these wonderful smells floating out when they were opened. So I thought, I'm going to this country where all these boxes are readily available, and those children who sent me these gifts will want to be my friends." But the early years in Boston were what Anna described as her worst time after the war. She looked and felt like a "dirty refugee." Mocked and teased by her classmates at school, Anna also struggled at home to make things easier for her parents. Her father could never find steady work, and her mother never had any friends or neighbors to talk to because she only spoke Yiddish. Anna finally left home to attend college, with a vision to find her proper place in the world.
Although she eventually married and had children, Anna spend most of her adulthood feeling isolated and unloved. She spent time in a psychiatric hospital, but later became a social worker and even took her children on a trip back to Germany. At the end of Julie Heifertz's interview, Anna's husband had just left her. Currently residing in Chicago, she planned to return to Boston, "scared and lonely now, but impatient to get on with life."
Those Who Survived
Those Who Perished
Benjamin Wilkomirski: Memory Thief?
Children & Trauma
Books & Sources