The project Bridging Generations involves seniors in the meetings, study visits, conferences and especially in the narrative interviews. We thank them for their time and contributions to the project.
Józefa Biegańska and Bolesława Kozioł (see further down) are two friends who were born in the small village of Siemianówka near Lviv. They were good friends from early childhood. During World War II, their families thankfully survived the UPA (Ukrainian Insurgent Army) massacres in the Kresy region. After World War II, their families together with many other survivors moved further west to the territories of Lower Silesia. They came to live in the small village of Boguszyce near Oleśnica in Lower Silesia, where they settled in a house abandoned by the Germans. They had farms and land to work and live in. They both got married, both had many children and many more grandchildren. They still are living there, in Boguszyce, with their families in their multigenerational houses. And they are still best friends.
Mrs Janina Bodo was born in 1929, in a small village near Brest on the Eastern Borderlands. During World War II, her family shared a house with soldiers from the German army. According to her story, her family survived thanks to the goodness of the hearts of these soldiers who shared their meals with her family. After World War II, like so many Polish families from Eastern Kresy, Janina's family arrived in the western lands of Poland. First they went to Konarzewo near Szczecin, later they moved to Boguszyce near Oleśnica in Lower Silesia, where they settled in a house abandoned by the Germans. They had a farm and land to work there. Janina and her husband Julian shared the house and the farm with Janina's parents. Janina and Julian had five children. After many years they sold their land. At the moment Janina is still living there in Boguszyce, with her son, in the same old German house, which has not been changed since they moved in. Janina Bodo is the grandmother of Monika Małobęcka who is a researcher and interviewer for the Bridging Generations project’s videos.
Mr Zoltan Dömötör was 5 years old when WWII broke out. His father was a reservist and a Levente-trainer, so was very actively and professionally involved in the Hungarian politics of the time. Young Zoltán’s life took a turn for the worst in 1945 as his father fell into French captivity right after the war ended and was taken to France in cattle train wagons to Mailly-le-camp in France.
He started his college studies in Budapest, but later transferred to the Teacher Training State College in Eger as a Hungarian and Russian major. In college, during summer breaks he served in the Hungarian Army as a reservist. This is where he got involved in the 1956 Hungarian Uprising, was shot, injured, and later captured while sleeping in his dorm room by officers of the State Protection Authority. He was taken to the Internment Camp in Kistarcsa and was convicted under section I/1 of the prevailing Criminal Code adopted from the USSR for “leading a conspiracy to overthrow the people’s democratic state order” to 7 years of incarceration. After doing 5 years, he was released and had difficulty finding a job. As he was a professional handball player he did coaching and refereeing under an alias for a while.
Thanks to the fall of the Iron Curtain in 1989, he was rehabilitated and promoted to the rank of Colonel of the 1956 National Guard. He is an honorary citizen of his native Csömör, a village just 2 miles from Kistarcsa.
Mr Johannes Eissmann studied Mechanical Engineering when he entered military service; he had volunteered to go to the Navy, because he had planned to specialise in marine engines and intended to go out to sea after his studies. In 1943, he was conscripted to Kiel in the Department of Staff to be trained as an Army Officer and went to serve abroad the heavy cruiser “Admiral Scheer”. He was involved in the attack on Peenemünde, the research centre of the Third Reich’s V-Weapons. After end of The War he was taken as a prisoner-of-war and helped clean the Northern Sea of Nazi sea-mines.
Schwester (Sister) Erika's first encounter with fascism was in 1934, when the young-ladies’ group she belonged to was forced to shut down and she was explicitly told not to present herself as one of said group for fear of her safety. Because of her dream to travel she became a nurse with the Red Cross. She experienced bombings and air-raids first-hand, as well as the cruelties and solidarities that take place when one’s side loses. Indeed, she made a conscious effort to report the solidarity she noticed, amongst enemies and friends.
Mrs Rózsa Farkas was born in the countryside. When she was 8 years old she was sent to Budapest to an aunt who covered for her expenses and gave her accommodation. She acted as a Christian and pretended to be 16 years old. She worked outside of the ghetto under a false identity as a Christian until December ’44, when she lived in the Ghetto with her aunt’s family. At the time her father was far away on forced labour. She peddles with illegal goods and supports her mother and younger brother back home for as long as it was possible. After each one of her family members were taken to forced labour (men and women alike) she stayed behind at the age of 11 with two Christian orphans who were made to live with her family.
In one of the last days before the final sealing of the ghetto (December ‘44), she managed to sneak out without any belongings, acting as the child of a Christian couple who probably never noticed the girl shuffling behind them through the gate. She met a Christian lady who she had met a few months back by accident who told her that if she can get some documents she would take her in. She managed to get papers as a Hungarian Christian refugee from her birth town and stayed with the lady for as long as possible, but the searches for hidden Jews became so frequent and dangerous for the family she was with that she chose to go back to the Ghetto. She is then liberated there. Her mother and brother did not come back from Auschwitz so she did not have any family left after the war. The lady who took her in raised her after The War, taught her the confectionery trade and she got married from there.
Mrs Susan[ Freund (alias) was a child when the war begun. Her father was bundled-off to a ‘psychiatric hospital’ because he was anti-Nazi. On the day of the bombing, the 13th of February 1945, she woke up to the neighbouring house having been bombed and to nests of fire everywhere. Afterwards, her family went to the countryside where they experienced the end of The War through the Russian Invasion. The worst thing for her was the fear of the sirens´ wailing and what it could bring.
During World War II, Nazi Germany invaded the Polish parts of Upper and Lower Silesia. Viewing Poles and Jews as subhuman they engaged in a programme of systemic extermination through mass murder and ethnic cleansing. In 1945, both provinces were occupied by the Soviet Union. The Potsdam Conference of 1945 defined the Oder-Neisse line as the border between Germany and Poland. Most of Silesia’s territory was afterwards transferred to Poland. Most of the German population was expelled westward by force and replaced by Polish settlers who had themselves been expelled from the eastern Polish Borderlands and other regions. Some German families wanted to stay in their houses... The Fritz family was born in Brzezinka near Oleśnica. They decided to stay because they believed that the people belong to the land where they were born on. They were a German family in a new reality with Poles, Russians and Ukrainians around them. They changed their surname to Fryczkowski, learnt a new language and started a new life in the same house.
Mr Aggelos Giannakitsas was born in 1919 in Agios Spiridonas, Viotia. While young he witnessed the Great Recession, Dictatorial regimes, the Greco-Italian War and the German occupation. He was part of the resistance network transporting food. He got caught with the help of Greek collaborators. He went through detainment in Greece and was transported to KZ Neuengamme and later to KZ Bergen Belsen. He miraculously survived the typhoid epidemic and after wandering in Europe for a while he found his way back home. After the liberation of Greece he moved to Athens where he became a textile merchant. Mr Aggelos Giannakitsas has also written a book titled ‘My Roots and my Captivity’, a self-publication in Athens in 2013, detailing his family’s origins and the time during World War II.
Mrs Ingeborg Günther was born in Halle and her family had a factory. During WWII, a lot of prisoners-of-war were sent to her family’s factory to labour and because of this her family was under constant Gestapo observation. She further experienced the deportation and repatriation of Germans, after the end of The War, together with all the trials that came with the dividing of Germany into two parts, including the separation of her family. Nowadays, she is in the senior theatre group and has many different hobbies.
Mr Tito Grazia knew a shoemaker who conscripted him against Fascism. The shoemaker explained to him Democracy, Freedom and other such values. When the Armistice came after the 8th of September, the Fascist Regime called on the young men to join them. That was when he thought of switching sides. Through the shoemaker and his connections he organised together with other people the 1st Partisans Brigade from Bologna. They were isolated into smaller groups which got to know about each other solely through couriers. He was 17 years old when he became a partisan. He participated in some sabotaging, disarming German and Fascist soldiers at night.
Bolesława Kozioł and Józefa Biegańska (see top) are two friends who were born in the small village of Siemianówka near Lviv. They were good friends from early childhood. During World War II, their families thankfully survived the UPA (Ukrainian Insurgent Army) massacres in the Kresy region. After World War II, their families together with many other survivors moved further west to the territories of Lower Silesia. They came to live in the small village of Boguszyce near Oleśnica in Lower Silesia, where they settled in a house abandoned by the Germans. They had farms and land to work and live in. They both got married, both had many children and many more grandchildren. They still are living there, in Boguszyce, with their families in their multigenerational houses. And they are still best friends.
Mr Kurt Mersiowski was born into a traditional German family in a small village called Lauba in Saxony, Germany, bordering the countries Poland and Czech Republic. He was recruited to RAD (Reichsarbeitsdienst) and served in Camp Lessen in Western Prussia as a rear guard to Latvia. As a trained Gebirgsjäger he served in Finland and Lapland. Upon his return he was shocked by the view of the city of Dresden as it was completely unrecognisable and arrived home unannounced on the first Saturday of November, 1945. He met his wife during WWII and they are still happily married and live in Lauba.
Mrs Xanthoula Metaxiotι-Zimvrakaki was born in 1930 in Livadi, Olympus. She was the younger and only daughter of a family of eight. When she was 12, with her older brother Dimitris executed and her village burned to the ground by Italians, she was forced to move to Thessaloniki following her family. At 13 years of age and as a member of EPON (Pan-Hellenic Youth Organisation in Resistance) she was yelling out loud slogans against the German Occupation in the Neapoli neighbourhoods and assisting the partisan revolution. Her childhood memories are filled with partisans hiding in her house and hiding with her brother Giorgos during the turbulent Civil War years that came after the end of the Occupation. She still lives in Thessaloniki where she has been working since she was 15 years old as a seamstress, later got married and raised two daughters.
Yossef Ben Nun
Mr Yossef –Yossi- Ben Nun was born József Bienenstock into a religious, traditional Jewish family in the neighbourhood of the infamous Teleki square market, in the eighth district, the second most Jewish area of Budapest, Hungary.
Mr Ben Nun’s father was taken to forced labour. In 1944 at the age of 12, he had to move out of their home with his mother and sister into a room of a flat located in a ‘yellow star building’ in their area. They lived through a series of atrocities, were almost murdered, and then taken to the newly formed ghetto in the end of 1944. He managed to get into a children’s home and worked there in order to provide food for his mother and sister who lived crammed in a nearby apartment with dozens of other families. In 1947 he left the country for Israel, and has been living there. He travels back to Hungary on a regular basis conducting research on the life of the Hungarian Jewish community during the first half of the 20th century.
Evangelia Kyrimi Pitsouli
Mrs Evangelia Kyrimi-Pitsouli was born and is still living in Chortiatis, Greece. She is one of the survivors of the Chortiatis’ Holocaust. She has captured the images of The War and presents them through her poetry. Married with the now deceased Kyriakos Pitsoulis, she is the mother of two children and the grandmother of 7 grandchildren. Mrs Kyrimi Pitsouli has published a poetry book with the title ‘The wailing river’. Her verse is also to be found in literary magazines and the local newspaper Chortiatis 57010. She is a member of the ‘Writers Union - N. Greece’ as well as an active member of the Chortiatis community, a member of the central council of the Chortiatis Women’s Cultural Union and is active in the dancing and the theatre group. She wrote two theatrical plays for Holocaust memorial events, the folkloric ‘Ζμπούρο με Ντραβάλα’ (2003) and the docudrama ‘Ολοκαύτομα’ (2005) dramatizing accounts of the events of September 2nd, 1944.
Mr Ferenc Reisler was born into a traditional secular Jewish family in the neighbourhood of the infamous Teleki square market, in the eighth district, the second most Jewish area of Budapest, Hungary.
In May 1944 they move together with the grandmother to a yellow star building. Then they are moved to the ghetto. He works as a courier (age 12!) for the Jewish Council. Refuses to wear the yellow star. He escapes and gets to a diplomatically protected Jewish hospital outside of the ghetto with his female family members. This is where they are liberated. He works as a carrier of subpoenas for the Jewish Council, later collects dead bodies and buries them in the nearby public squares. He steals and deals with food and false documents and supports in order to provide for his mother and sister. His father was drafted to forced labour where he escapes and comes back from in ‘44. Then after the failed exit from the war when the extremist Arrow Cross Party takes over, his father is taken away with other forced labour workers by train and he never comes back. When he learns, that his father was killed, he turns his back on religion. He never set foot in a synagogue for almost 70 years. He is one of the very few Jewish people who do not change their name to something more Hungarian sounding (Jewish names are all German sounding names in Hungary).
Mrs Sterina Taboh was born in 1932 in Thessaloniki, Greece. She was the 7th child of Zacharia and Estrea Pinto. In 1942, she accidentally stayed in Veria and was taken in by a new family. After The War, in 1954, Sterina married Isaak Taboh in Veria. In 1958, she and her family moved to Thessaloniki where she still lives. She has a son and 2 grandchildren.
Her story is about her survival through the gathering and extermination of the Jewish population in Thessaloniki. She went to Veria, a small town near Thessaloniki, with a family friend by chance the same day as the order revoking the travelling rights of Jews was enforced. The order trapped her in Veria and she could not go back home. Her whole family perished in concentration camps. Sterina never saw them again and had to remain hidden in Veria under a new name with the Christian family who adopted her and kept her safe from the grasp of the Germans.
After World War II, the vast majority of the native ethnic German population was expelled from Lower Silesia westward and replaced by Polish settlers who were transferred from the Eastern Borderlands and from other territories of Poland. Many polish families settled in Oleśnica and its surrounding villages. Mr Antoni Wójcik and Mrs Stanisława Wójcik (see below) came to Boguszyce from Rzeszow and settled in a house abandoned by Germans. They were one of the first families in Boguszyce. They shared a house with other families and had a farm and land to work on and started a new life. Mrs Stanisława Wójcik and Mr Antoni Wójcik have raised three children. One of their sons is living in Boguszyce with his three sons and they work together on the farm to this day.
After World War II, the vast majority of the native ethnic German population was expelled from Lower Silesia westward and replaced by Polish settlers who were transferred from the Eastern Borderlands and from other territories of Poland. Many polish families settled in Oleśnica and its surrounding villages. Mrs Stanisława Wójcik and Mr Antoni Wójcik (see above) came to Boguszyce from Rzeszow and settled in a house abandoned by Germans. They were one of the first families in Boguszyce. They shared a house with other families and had a farm and land to work on and started a new life. Mrs Stanisława Wójcik and Mr Antoni Wójcik have raised three children. One of their sons is living in Boguszyce with his three sons and they work together on the farm to this day.