By Erika Eckstut
I was very fortunate to have had a happy childhood. The memories of my childhood kept me going during the terrible war. My childhood was just beautiful. I received a great deal of love and caring from both my parents and grandparents.
When we first moved from Czechoslovakia to Romania, close to my grandparents, I was almost two years old. My sister was nearly seven years old. My grandparents did not have any other grandchildren in Europe. My sister was a real little lady, perfect in looks and behavior. I, on the other hand, was very lively and my behavior left a lot to be desired. Our grandparents loved us with all their hearts. I loved them both very much. We became friends from the first moment I came to their house. My grandfather would take me to see his horse, his cow, and his chickens everyday. My sister did not like to visit the animals but I loved seeing them.
When I would go out with my grandfather to feed the animals I was always nice and clean and my clothes were neatly pressed, but by the time we returned home I was a big mess. My grandmother was always very upset with my grandfather because of the way I looked. As a result my grandfather gave me a red shirt and pair of pants to wear when I went with him. However, he was unable to provide me with shoes, so then my grandmother complained about my dirty shoes.
We were all very happy in Romania. The reason we had moved from Czechoslovakia to Romania was that my father wanted to take his parents with us to Palestine because Hitler had come to power. When my father spoke to his father about leaving, his father, my grandfather, said that if he could take his horse, his cow, and his chickens he would gladly go to Palestine but he would not leave without them. My grandparents had a little farm there in Romania and they would work the whole day on it.
As soon as I was old enough my grandfather bought me a pony to ride. We had great times with my grandparents on their little farm; there was always something going on. I could go on and on and spend a whole hour talking about everything I could have done. I loved the Passover time. My grandmother would change the dishes at Passover. The whole house was scrubbed and it looked like new. My grandfather would sit in a white kittel. My grandparents were very religious. I would ask the four questions at the seder. The seder was a big event in our family. When I had a problem finding the afikomen, my grandfather, who had the most beautiful blue eyes, would wink at me in order to show me where it was.
At home our parents were quite strict and the only shadow in my childhood was that we had to read a great deal. My father was very strict about our studies. I did not like having to study. My sister, on the other hand, always had her nose in a book. After I would finish a book, my father would sit me down and ask me what the moral of the story was. I did not like to tell the moral of the story because it took me an hour to figure it out. In this hour I could have had lots of fun. I could have climbed trees or played with my grandfather.
My childhood memories were all happy ones. The good memories are the ones that kept me going when times got so bad. We had plenty of bad times when we were in the ghetto and our grandparents wouldn’t eat anything because it was not kosher. They were strictly kosher and if they did not believe the scarce food we had to eat was kosher, they did not eat.
One day I was sitting with my grandfather and talking and he asked me to go and bring my father into the room to him. I found my father and sent him to see my grandfather. When my father came back he told us that Grandfather had just died. I couldn’t believe it. I had just been sitting and talking with him. My father buried him in the Jewish cemetery in Czernowitz. That was a terrible time for me to lose my grandfather. He was so close to me. It was terrible for me. My father tried to console me by saying that my grandfather had died a natural death and was not murdered by Nazis. I was still so very unhappy when my grandfather died.
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