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New Life

By Halina Peabody

The war was over. The Germans were gone, the Soviets were still with us and didn’t give any sign of leaving Poland, but our lives were no longer in danger.

I was in the hospital recovering from the bomb shrapnel that wounded my hand. When Mother found Father in Tel Aviv, we expected him to come and get us, but he sent my cousin Arye instead to navigate our trip out of Poland. 

When Arye arrived, we learned that Father was serving in the Anders Army, a Polish military unit that was initially created in the Soviet Union under the command of Polish General Anders. General Anders had also been a prisoner like my father. The unit was made up of Polish citizens, including a number of Jewish Poles, who had been deported and imprisoned by Stalin when the Soviet Union occupied eastern Poland in 1939. The unit fought in the Middle East and in the Italian campaign in the famous battle of Monte Cassino. Father had been imprisoned by the Soviets in Archangielsk with many others, including my aunt Gucia, her husband, Bolek, and my cousin George. Father was now stationed in Egypt, which was right next to Palestine.

Arye signed us up with the Jewish Agency in Kraków, which dealt with Jewish refugees. We moved from Jarosław to Kraków to be ready for transportation out of Poland. We had to travel, by way of Germany, to Italy, where we stayed in a temporary transit camp in Trani near Bari, which was for refugees waiting to leave for permanent settlement in various countries. Father met us there and my parents decided that we would settle in England, which was one of the options available to us; the other option was to go to Palestine. Father had to return to his unit in Egypt but would later join us in England.

The three of us, my mother, my sister, and I, arrived at the White Cliffs of Dover by ship on July 31, 1946. Strangely, I cannot recall the sea trip at all until we reached England. From Dover, we were transferred to a train, which took us to Maghull in the north of England, where we were housed in barracks in a camp. Maghull is a small town close to Liverpool. We were nicely welcomed and got the same slim rations and coupons as the British, which seemed very generous to us.

When Father rejoined us, we moved to London and bought a house in London on the “never, never,” which means we had a mortgage! Mother had never bought anything on credit before, so this was her description of credit. The house had three floors, only one bathroom, and we lived on the ground floor and rented out the four rooms upstairs, which covered the “never never,” I think.

I struggled in school while I learned English, but soon caught up and as soon as I graduated, I went to work. Jobs were very easy to find, and I could pick and choose. For community and entertainment, I found the Maccabi Youth Club, which was within walking distance of my house. Regretfully, I had to give up my dreams of playing tennis and played table tennis instead because there were no facilities for tennis. But I don’t regret learning to play table tennis because it eventually took me to Israel. My club chose me to represent England in the Maccabiah Games, equivalent to the Olympics for Jewish youth from all over the world. The Games still continue today in Israel. 

In 1953, back in England, I decided to look for a job with connections to Israel. I found one with Rabbi Unterman, who had an office in Berkeley Square no less—a very posh area in London. He later became Chief Rabbi of Tel Aviv.

In September 1953 I set out for the land of Israel.

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