Bălţi Emigrants Aboard the Struma
In December 1941, the Struma sailed from the Romanian port of Constanta, with some 780 Jewish "illegal immigrant" passengers aboard on their way to Eretz Israel. The fated ship struggled to Istanbul, but Turkish authorities refused to allow the refugees to disembark, for fear that the British would not allow them into Eretz Israel, and Turkey would become a haven for immigrants. Just a few passengers left the ship at Istanbul, including brothers Izia (Yisrael) and David Franc, who owned personal passports with transit visas to Eretz Israel via Turkey, Syria and Lebanon. Two days after the Francs disembarked, the Struma was sunk.
On 23 February 1942, the Turkish authorities towed the Struma back out to sea, without food, water or fuel for the refugees, despite their pleading. After a few hours, the ship was accidentally torpedoed by Soviet forces and sunk. Just one of the passengers survived. Among the dead was Rachel Dolicki, a 40-year-old widow born in Bălţi, who was on her way to her daughter Rivka Volfson, who lived on Kibbutz Shamir.
The Franc Family
Berki Franc's family was a wealthy family from Bălţi that owned factories and properties. Their home was the fanciest residence in the town, resembling a palace. At the foot of the entranceway staircase were two marble lions. The owners entertained Romanian government officials and rulers during their visits to the town. One such guest was General Papano, a close friend of Berki Franc. Papano later became the mayor of Bucharest, and Franc often stayed with him. In the summer of 1940, a few days before the Soviet forces entered Bălţi, the Francs fled to Bucharest, leaving behind their entire fortune. Izia and David fled first to Czernowitz, and then on to Bucharest. Papano took care of providing the entire family with passports bearing transit visas.