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Early Memories

When I look at pictures of Poland, they are in black and white, but my memories are in full, vivid color. Krakow, Poland, was a large city. The downtown area resembled New York, filled with big buildings, churches, and apartment complexes. When I was a small child, the buildings looked gigantic. Luckily they were painted so you could tell one from the next.

Krakow’s streets were colorful with reds and yellows, browns and greens. In the summertime, all of the restaurants had outdoor seating. Yellow, purple, and orange flowers bloomed in the street planters, on balconies, and in the markets. The market square filled with farmers selling vegetables, fruits, and grains. As a teenager, I worked at the mill that ground the wheat and corn into grain, which was sold at the markets.

Outside the market square, the city sprawled along the river Vistula. The hills reflected hues of green, and the sky in the late summer was grand and blue.

The trolley ran until 9 p.m., but many people rode bicycles. There were few cars in the late 1920s. My father owned a bicycle and used it to travel door to door selling Singer sewing machines to countryside farmers’ wives.

In the center of Krakow, the large cathedral could be seen from great distances, and one could hear the church bells ringing every hour.

Krakow is an old city founded before the end of the first millennium. Krakow is located in southern Poland, but for several hundred years, during periods known as Partitions, the Prussians, Russians, and Austrian troops controlled this land. During this time Poland ceased to exist or even to appear on maps of Europe. Then when the Polish diaspora communities congregated in 1918, they reestablished the Polish state and Krakow came back to life.

The first Jews resided in Krakow during the early thirteenth century. By 1931, more than 55,000 Krakow residents identified themselves as Jews in the Polish census. This constituted close to one-fourth of the total population.

My grandfather, Aaron Fischer, was a great man. People regarded him as a saint. A man of wisdom. When an impoverished Jew would die, Aaron washed and buried them. He was religious and a student of the great books—the Torah, Talmud, and Chamush. They called him Tzadikim, which means “doing all good things for God for free.”

Aaron and my grandmother, Blindel, had four children. My father Baruch Fischer was their second child, and then came his brother, Leiblich, and two sisters, Hayka and Rachel. My mother’s name was Rose Felcher.

My parents met sometime in the early part of 1917. They were both looking for work. As a widow with a young daughter named Lydia, my mother was in great need of work at that time.


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