Marking the New Year

From Our Collections

New Year's card with a photograph of the Sorger family, sent in 1934 from Obertyn, Poland to Eretz Israel

Eli-Eliash and Golda-Olga Sorger lived in the town of Obertyn, Poland (today Ukraine).  On the eve of World War II, some 1,200 Jews lived in Obertyn, about one quarter of the town's total population.  Eli was a photographer, and also owned a shoe and leather store.  They had four daughters: Donia-Rosa (b. 1922), Esther (b. 1925), Ruthie, who died in infancy and Sonia (b. 1932).  The family was Zionist in outlook, and Golda's brother Yaakov Schleimer immigrated to Eretz Israel (Mandatory Palestine) in 1932.  Eli was a Zionist activist, and served as chairman of the "Hatikva" organization in Obertyn.  The Sorgers were financially comfortable.   In 1938, Donia and Esther left to study in Stanislawow, but were only there for one year before the war broke out.

In September 1939, the Soviets entered Obertyn and dismantled all the Jewish community's institutions and organizations.  The Sorgers were designated for evacuation to Siberia, however thanks to Eli's work as a photographer, they were allowed to remain in Obertyn but had to leave their home. Eli took photographs for personal documents, and every now and then was invited to photograph Russian officers' events.  The Soviets left Obertyn in June 1941, and the Hungarian Army entered the town for a short time in early July.  The Germans took over in August, and a range of anti-Jewish measures were introduced: limitations on freedom of movement, identifying marks, property confiscation and conscription for forced labor.   In April 1942, the Jews of Obertyn, including the Sorgers, were deported to the Kolomyja ghetto together with Jews from the surrounding areas.  Esther Sorger, who was a nurse in the Jewish hospital, stayed in Obertyn to take care of the typhus epidemic patients there. 

Golda's mother Pesia Schleimer was also confined in the Kolomyja ghetto, and Donia took care of her.  Living conditions in the ghetto were very difficult, and the inmates were starving.  When the Germans allowed some of the professionals to return to Obertyn, Eli managed to take Golda and Sonia back to Obertyn with him.  They moved from one hiding place to another.  Pesia perished in Kolomyja and Donia managed to escape and return to Obertyn.  Esther succeeded in evading the Aktion against the hospital staff, and went into hiding.  The family members were in different hiding places until February 1943.  One of the women in whose house Donia and Esther were hiding betrayed them.  They were taken away by Ukrainian policemen and murdered.  Eli, Golda and Sonia were also caught.  Eli and Golda were taken to prison in Obertyn, and Sonia was smuggled to a new hiding place by Romanitze, a Ukrainian policeman who knew the family.  Eli and Golda tried unsuccessfully to commit suicide in prison, and were later murdered at the town cemetery.

11-year-old Sonia was left alone.  She wandered from place to place, sometimes finding refuge in a farm or barn.  She lived with a peasant family in the village of Zukow for a few months, but her Jewish identity was discovered, and she returned to Obertyn, giving herself up to the local Ukrainian militia.  She was sent to Hurodanka, and this time too, Romanitze came to her aid and brought her back to Obertyn.  Sonia continued to drift from one hiding place to another, until she reached Kolomyja in 1944, and stayed there under an assumed identity until her liberation by the Red Army in May 1944.

After liberation, Sonia was adopted by Mrs. Gecinski, a Polish Kolomyja resident, and her name was changed to Christina.  In 1945, the Gecinski family left for western Poland with Sonia-Christina.  In 1959, Sonia-Christina (later Shulamit Carmi) immigrated to Israel and settled in Kibbutz Givat Hashlosha.  Her memoir, "The Strange Ways of Providence in my Life", was published in 2015.