Note:Bubbe’s recollections were so incredible, I decided to research historical records and other survivor stories to verify their authenticity. Footnotes, Chapter Notes, photographs, military maps, an Appendix, and a Bibliography are included. The Foreword is written by Murray Sachs, Professor Emeritus at Brandeis University and volunteer translator and reviewer. His knowledge of the subject matter and support was an affirmation both of Bubbe’s story and of my research. We are pleased that Cornell Library of Rare and Manuscript Collections accepted my grandmother's letters, documents, photographs, and audio tapes into their Special Collections section.
The Bubbe Chronicles, A Memoir was written by my grandmother, Miriam Seidman and translated by my mother. Bubbe was beautiful and tough enough to survive two world wars, one of them the Holocaust. That toughness was formed early in her childhood, when she was forced to avoid the pain of her father's heavy boots, while caring for her five siblings, an invalid mother, and the farm animals. All because her Orthodox Jewish father viewed her un-Jewish-Like blonde hair and blue eyes with disgust. That toughness carried her through a forced marriage to a local disabled merchant and the birth of two children before she turned 22. She became the primary wage earner, when the family fled Poland for Vienna at the outbreak of World War I. When the war ended, she refused to return with them to their little Polish village, where opportunities for a good education for the children and their immigration to America were nonexistent. Bubbe remained in Vienna for 18 years, alone with my mother and uncle. With a little help from her brothers in America, her earnings as a seamstress were enough to send both children to college. Bubbe arranged for my mother and uncle to join her two brothers less than a year before Hitler's troops marched into Vienna and declared the Austro-Hungarian Empire defunct. With Krystallnacht, “The Night of Broken Glass,” the fantasy of a life in America remains just that, and she returned to her family in Poland. She brought with her the knowledge that the German invasion of Poland would be more than a typical wartime occupation. She had witnessed in Vienna what most Polish Jews refused to believe: the beginning of Hitler’s attempt to colonize Europe and eradicate an entire population based on their ethnicity; and other "undesirables" that threatened the racial purity of the German Empire. But Bubbe's warnings fell on deaf ears. A year later, the Nazis declared war on Russia and invaded Poland, and the systematic eradication of Jews in Poland and the Ukraine began. Her foresight had led her to hide some clothing and valuables in a neighbor’s barn. When the first call came for Jews to gather at the local synagogue to be immunized against typhus, only Bubbe’s husband listened to her pleas to join her in hiding. He was sickly and despite her efforts to save him, he was eventually dragged from his hospital bed and shot. After his death and the disappearance of her siblings and their families, Bubbe was on her own. She was a loner, preferring to rely on her own judgment as always, so solitude did not intimidate her. At times she reveals her confidence by boasting that there was not a barn lock she could not pick. Other times she is tempted to take the poison she received earlier from a local Jewish pharmacist. She gradually discovered that the remaining members of her family had perished during the Holocaust. Transport yourself in time to December, 1941, and Poland and the Ukraine are fully occupied by Nazi troops. Labor camps and concentration camps are beginning to operate to fuel the German engine of the war and simultaneously rid the world of undesirables. Dogs suddenly become your only companions and hog mash and raw vegetables will be your sole source of food; you pull fistfuls of lice from your clothing and hair and bath with snow in the winter and river water in the summer. You avoid crowded cellars, where typhus was rampant and others made the rules. The seasons guide your movements: fields in the summer, forests in the late fall, barns in the winter. The blond hair and blue eyes abhorred by your father become your salvation. You dress like a Ukrainian peasant and awake every morning before dawn, roaming the streets of your village to learn what was happening. Your friends think you are an alarmist and unstable because you are always on the move. In the end, that saves you from their fate. After she was liberated by the Russians, my grandmother joined up with her only surviving family member, a nephew. Together, they crisscrossed Central and Eastern Europe seeking safety behind Allied lines. It took them a year before they set foot on American soil. Bubbe lived another 24 years happily surrounded by her new husband, children, grandchildren, and her brothers' families.