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< Echoes of Memory

Mama Picking My Husband, Jack

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By Nesse Godin

In January of 1945, we were lined up for roll call, expecting to go to work as usual. Instead we were ordered to get our blankets and our dish for food and to come back. As we stood there lined up five in a row, we were told that we were leaving the camp. We assumed that we would be going to another labor camp, but instead we started off on foot. Later this would be known as a “death march.” We marched through the towns and villages of Poland and Germany, leaving many women behind, some who died from exhaustion and starvation and some who were shot to death. We marched this way until the middle of February. We stopped then outside of a little town called Chinoff, where we were pushed into a barn. How many women were there I do not know. Many women died of typhus and hunger in that barn.

On March 10, the Soviet army found us. The Soviets set up a hospital in a school gymnasium in the nearby little town. After being there for six weeks, we were told that we could leave. We had to line up and be registered and then a document was given to each person. Since I was just 17 and therefore a minor, I was assigned a foster mother. My foster mother, a young woman from Poland, had left a little boy for safekeeping with Christian people near the city of Lodz. It took us weeks to get there.

When we came to Lodz we were taken to a shelter that was set up by some charitable organizations—the Red Cross, Jewish Relief Services, and the UN Relief and Rehabilitation Administration. All around the room of a large dining area, there were posters with names of countries and cities. Everyone would sign where they were from so that people could find one another. A lady from my hometown told me that my mom was alive and eventually my mother and I were reunited in Lodz.

After a month or so men started to come back to Lodz. They came back from the camps, from hiding, and from fighting with the partisans. Some families were reunited, and life for the small families that had a man became easier. The men could go to the farms and get some food and these families did not need to come to the shelters.

One day Mama said to me that two women alone could not survive and that one of us would have to get married. I wondered why Mama would want to get married when she had me, but Mama told me that she would never get married again. She said that I would have to get married. I remember asking Mama how I would do that. How was I going to find a husband? She told me not to worry, that she would find one for me. There were some men in the shelter and she said she would ask them and maybe she could find a husband for me.

I looked around the room to where the men were sitting and I asked Mama which man she would ask. She told me that there was a man that had been in hiding and that he had lots of money. I rejected him because he was about 30 years older than me. Then she offered his brother, and him I did not like but I don’t remember why. The third choice was a man called Yankel.

I looked at him and I thought that he was cute and so I said “Okay.” Mama walked over and told him that we were two women alone and since he had no family would he marry me? He looked over across the room to where I was standing and said he would. Mama brought him over to where I was standing. He took my hand and asked me if I would marry him. I looked at Mama, who was nodding her head, and I said I would.

I have been married to my dear husband for 65 years. We have three children, seven grandchildren, and three great-grandchildren.

©2011, Nesse Godin. The text, images, and audio and video clips on this website are available for limited non-commercial, educational, and personal use only, or for fair use as defined in the United States copyright laws.

Tags:   nesse godinechoes of memory, volume 6

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