Aleksandra and Arnold Walfisz
They met when studying Swedish in Lund in the autumn of 1970. The Walfisz family live there till this day. Aleksandra Walfisz She spent seven weeks in an immigrant camp. “We were taken shopping. […] I bought a skirt. It was said that it was give by the king”. Later, she chose Lund – due […]
They met when studying Swedish in Lund in the autumn of 1970. The Walfisz family live there till this day.
She spent seven weeks in an immigrant camp. “We were taken shopping. […] I bought a skirt. It was said that it was give by the king”. Later, she chose Lund – due to its proximity to Poland, where her parents and brother remained. Her language studies were paid for by a scholarship. “It was a loan to be repaid later”. She worked on the side. “We cleaned offices, wherever we could. In the hospital, we scrubbed surgical footwear – kind of wooden clogs. Every evening, they had to be cleaned and disinfected”. She tried to study, but her knowledge of the language was week. She graduated as a medical laboratory technician. “They helped me there a lot. I received one high mark – in mathematics. Numbers in Swedish are the same, after all, in Polish. But chemistry, formulas and medical lectures were hard for me. I went to the Dean and said that I wasn’t coping. He said, ‘Don’t worry, we’ll help you. The chemistry teacher gave me extra lessons”. She obtained a job in a hospital.
He was studying mathematics, dropped out and then studied at the Polytech. He could not cope. „I did a one-year welding course. I had to take a trade course. But then there was an energy crisis. They stopped producing takers and the Kockums shipyard closed. For two years, I worked as a welder in Malmo. That was rare amongst emigrants”. He ran an automotive workshop and finished nursing school. Eventually, he became an environmental engineer. “At the same time that I was working, I opened a carpentry workshop. I invented a shelving system”.
Asllked as to whether he had acieved some stability in his life, he said noyt yets.
The Tugendraich Family
“From a very early age, I knew who I was”. His parents survived the War in the USSR. After several years, they in the Regained Territories, they returned to Warsaw, from where they had come. They settled in Praga. “Once when I was out in the yard, that a child yelled at me, “You Jews!”. But, at home, no one ever talked about leaving – “even though my father had a brother in Israel and family in Australia”. Even though not religious, they remained connected with the TSKŻ [ed: Social-Cultural Association of Jews]. “I went to the TPD school [ed: Friends of Children School], I went to Jewish summer camps”. Her father worked at FSO, sometimes he was sent to factory camps. “I didn’t feel right when, every Sunday, it was obligatory to go to church and children would say prayers every evening”.
The Walfisz Family
The parents, from Wyszogród, had broken with religion. They were attracted to Communism. They fled from the Germans to Kyrgyztan, from where they returned in 1946. “They knew that there was nothing left for them in Wyszogród. The home had been taken over, there was no family there and no Jews”. They settled in Wałbrzych. They father, opposed to Zionism, became involved in the development of Jewish life. “When, in 1956, his brother applied to go to Israel, they almost broke off all contact. He considered that the place for Jews as Poland”.
His parents protected him from antisemitism. “They tried to ensure that we could grow up without feeling threatened”. They went to Jewish summer camps and to a “Polish” one once. “I didn’t know how to pray and I didn’t want to. I was afraid of questions about who I am and why do I have this surname”.
See more: March ’68 – video testimonies
She does not remember her parents’ reaction to the Six-Day War. They never talked much about it. “I was naïve in political terms”. She was already studying psychology at Warsaw University. In March 1968, the department was disbanded and she was forced to re-enrol, so that she did not go to the rally. “Don’t go there. You’re a Jew”, warned her father, afraid of provocation.
When, in the autumn, her brother began to consider leaving Poland, their parents did not object. “They left the decision up to us. My father only insisted that I complete the academic year”. They submitted their applications. Her brother was refused. “His wife wasn’t Jewish. I received permission quite quickly”. In the Mostowski Palace, they encouraged her to cooperate, which she realised was for the purpose of reporting, to the meeting, on her brother’s relationship. Over weeks, she listed the titles of books which she wanted to take with her. She packed feather pillows, a sheepskin coat from Nowy Targ and whatever crystal she had at that time.
“In April 1967, I was called-up for army service”. During the Six-Day War, he was in Głogów, in an artillery unit. “Everyone knew that I was a Jew. During the first two days, the officers congratulated me on the successes of the Israeli army on the battlefield”. However, that atmosphere changed. His mother began burning letters for daughter who lived in America. “She panicked. She was afraid if a search. […] The Communists, towards whom she was loyal, began anti-Jewish activities. Following “March” […] she felt threatened, that there would be pogroms and destruction”.
After leaving the army in 1969, he married a non-Jewish girl and, together, they tried to leave. “The Director felt uncomfortable when he fired me from the Dolnośląsk Gasworks. […] I comforted him by saying that I was young and that I would cope. I don’t understand how I could not sense the antisemitism”. His wife again received a refusal. They did not want to let a Catholic woman leave. “For a year, I worked in the Wałbrzych ambulance service as a stretcher bearer. It was the only place which would be give me a job”. In the end. In order to be able to leave, he decided to divorce. His mother left that same day. Via Vienna, she would travel to her daughter in America.
He took things for himself and for a friend, a student who, in accordance with the regulations regarding someone who was not working, could only take personal belongings. His father wanted to add to them. He came to an arrangement with Walfisz who had a bigger luggage allowance. “I said that I wanted a KROKUS photographic enlarger and some laboratory equipment. I have them to this day”. The packing chest also contained his friend’s typewriter. The customs official told him to write something, but he was unable to open it. “It was a demeaning moment”.
The United States would not admit his mother due to her communist past. “In the spring of 1971, after half a year in Vienna, she came to me”.
Marcin and Miriam
Their son, Marcin, lives in Malmo. He married a Swede and he has four children. “He is not interested in Jewish culture”. Their daughter, Miriam, emigrated to Israel. “We organised Jewish summer camps, we had the Makabi club, but she needed something more deeply Jewish”. They keep Shabbat in their home, the family goes to synagogue and their son is circumcised.
Marcin speaks Polish poorly. “When he grew up, Eastern Europe was the ‘worse’ part of the world. He was embarrassed. Miriam grew up in a different atmosphere.” Following Pinochet’s attack, there were many children from Chile in her school. It was a mixture of cultures. Various languages were spoken there and those languages were all considered as equal”. She speaks a beautiful Polish.
She is the one who teaches the Walfisz family about tradition. “It’s a grotesque situation. Our parents tried to give us something Jewish, without any Jewish elements”.
The Walfisz Couple
Of herself, Mrs Walfisz says that she is a Jew from Poland. She is also Swedish. “Secularism is important to me. It’s a component of humanity”. Mr Walfisz says that he is a Pole with Jewish origins. “The Polishness within me has not diminished”.
They took Poland with them and continue to use it like when they sang “Śpiewnika na całe życie”, while wandering around the mountains. “It wasn’t Poland which threw us out, it was the regime”. It was only after a time that they understood what had been done to them. “I met people here who discussed the subject. I saw the world’s rection. I saw my own naivete. […] What happened needs to be considered as exiling, even though we found ourselves in a paradise”. They drew from both cultures. They found friends amongst the Swedes. “We have fantastic albums from our travels to places where we were the only Foreigners”. “Sweden was a great choice. Life has gone so smoothly”, she says. “Not so smoothly”, he says. Today, he believes that, after the War, Jews should have left for Israel. “Antisemitism in Poland is so deeply-rooted that it will not pass”.
“We live close to Poland and we can travel there often”. And they do. Mr Walfisz discovered that his grandfather’s family had a carpentry workshop in Wyszogród. “They made clogs and simple furniture which they sold at the market. Without even knowing about that, I felt that I also needed to do the same”. His workshop is located in Malmo.
Translated by Andrew Rajcher