I was privileged to grow up in a warm family that despite unspeakable conditions lovingly educated us to do good deeds and behave respectfully.
We survived from Aktion to Aktion. Terror and dread shadowed me for many years.
The fateful Aktion started in the early morning. The Germans and their collaborators surrounded the ghetto. Everyone was ordered to gather in the roll-call area.
In an effort to save her children from the Aktion, mother sent us to her sister, my aunt Renia, whose house was considered safer.
Terrified, we ran between the houses. My 8-year-old brother and I (aged 7) reached her house safely. Aunt Renia hid us in a wardrobe and ran out to join the others, in the hope that we would not be discovered. However, a German who was conducting a search found us and kicked us into the street, which left me weak and unable to focus.
I lost sight of my brother, and I was supposed to be watching over him. (At that point I didn't know that we had lost him forever). I stood petrified, unable to move. Around me, they were shoving men, women and children into trucks. Soldiers had their rifles aimed at us, and what was I to do? This continued until darkness fell. I have no idea how I survived.
Under cover of darkness I made my way home. My parents were alive. The first thing they asked me: where was my brother Ben Zion, and why hadn't I looked after him.
Those words are seared into my soul for all eternity. The feeling of guilt that my life is not my own, that I stole it from my brother. My life is like a suspended sentence, with a perpetual expectation of punishment. Many years passed before I forgave myself.
After the Aktion, the ghetto was "Kinderfrei" – "cleansed" of children, so my parents found me a hiding place where I sat in the dark, fearing the inevitable.
In the course of her work, my aunt Renia sometimes encountered Poles who came to buy things. She noticed one woman who looked compassionate. Knowing that she was risking her life, she asked her guardedly if she would be prepared to buy a different kind of item – that is, to take a little girl out of the ghetto, for which she would be remunerated.
The plan was that I would hide inside the wardrobe that the Polish woman bought, and once the wardrobe had been brought outside the ghetto I would crawl out and wait for her to collect me.
We went over the plan many times. To give me courage, my mother promised that she would follow in my footsteps, knowing full well that there was no chance of that happening.
The moment of parting arrived. What does a mother say to her 7-year-old daughter when she knows she will never see her again? What words of wisdom can she impart in those terrifying moments?
Her first words were in Yiddish: "Du sollst nicht fargessen az du bist a Yiddish kind". Don't forget that you are a Jewish child.
She added in Polish:
"Always aspire to reach Eretz Israel. Remember your birthdate. If you want to identify a fellow Jew, whisper the word Amcha near him. A Jew will react, and you will be able to ask him for help, but a non-Jew won't understand and he will not harm you. Don't forget the prayers and blessings that you have learned. In times of trouble, repeat this verse: "Behold, he that watches over Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep."
In my mind, I have revisited these scenes, and that chilling moment in particular. At first, with the perspective of a child abandoned, torn away from her parents and family and belonging to no one. Only when I had grown up and become a mother myself, was I emotionally capable of seeing my mother in those same moments, thinking about how she must have felt and thought, and wondering where she drew the strength, determination and courage to entrust me with the mission of Jewish continuity.
The daring plan hatched by my parents and aunt went off as intended… and from that moment on, my existential war began.
Due to my complex and difficult past, I doubted that I would ever find within myself the ability to forge significant human relationships with others. How would I learn to develop feelings of compassion? When would I once again begin to believe in people and trust their intentions? Could I risk becoming a wife and mother?
Despite my misgivings, thank God I built a home and raised a family in Israel.
The foundations of who I am were laid by my parents, in my childhood years, and so, I decided to go into the field of early childhood education. I started out as a kindergarten teacher, progressed to being a teachers' college educator, and eventually became a kindergarten supervisor, writing educational programs addressing the relationships between man and his fellow man, and between man and God.
The pain is still there, as is the feeling that something is lacking, but I find solace in the miracle of the rebirth of our people and State, and in what I myself have built – my family. My husband Yosef Haim, my children and their spouses, my grandchildren and my great-grandchildren.
I had the privilege to fulfill the wishes of my mother Chana and my father Moshe. I fought for my physical existence and my spiritual identity. I survived, and I came to Eretz Israel. I remained a Jewish child, and I raised generations of Jewish children. My own children, and those of the State of Israel.