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Volume 24

Rachel Shtibel

The Violin

A publication of
The Concordia University Chair in Canadian Jewish Studies

Copyright © Rachel Shtibel, 2002


To the memory of my precious grandparents, Frida and Eli Milbauer.

Dear Bubbie and Zeyde, you were the first people in my life who taught me what love and respect were. You will remain deep in my heart and memory forever.


Author was born in 1935 on the family farm in Turka and describes farm life and kinship relations. 1939 brought the first antisemitic incidents and the occupation be Russian troops. Father was enlisted into the Russian army. This was soon followed by the German occupation and the persecution of the Jews. Mother was tortured by the Gestapo. In 1941 the Jews were sent to the newly established Kolomyja ghetto where they were subjected to hard labour, starvation, torture, and killings. Mother was selected to act as translator for a tailor who made uniforms to measure and the 6-year old author tagged along. One of the German officers offers to save them but mother refuses to leave. Father returns after having served in the Russian army, being captured by the Germans, and having escaped. The family, consisting of ten people, hide in a bunker under a Polish farmer's barn. When this becomes too dangerous they dig a bunker in the forest.

They live like this until March 1944 when they are picked up by Russian soldiers who feed them and take them to a house in Kolomyja that is already full of other survivors. When the Germans advanced once more the Russians evacuated them to Chernowitz and into Red Cross hospital. There all were cured, except the author who was mute after several years of the enforced silence in the bunkers. The family settles into a normal life with the now cured 9-year old author attending her first school. In 1945 they return to Kolomyja, but when it becomes part of Russia they return to Poland. But first the father returns to Turka to dig out the violin that his brother had buried before leaving. They settle in the coal town of Bytom where the author gets TB which causes them to relocate to Wroclaw. Author does very well in school and in her music lessons. Marries in 1956 and moves to Israel in 1957 where she attends university and has children. In 1967 her husband serves in the war. In 1968 they emigrate to Canada to join relatives. Describes their jobs in Toronto, family life, children's careers, and the discovery of her origin.




1 A Vision
2 The family farm in Turka
3 Uncles Shiko and Velvel
4 Mother’s family
5 I was born in 1935
6 Farm life
7 Hooligans
8 Playing with Ukrainian neighbours
9 Not wanting to eat
10 The Russians come - war and the Kolomyja ghetto
11 Mother’s arrest and torture in July 1941
12 Round-up to the Kolomyja ghetto, Nov. ‘41
13 Remembering past pleasures
14 Round-ups - killings - deportations
15 Memories of Gypsy neighbours
16 Mother translates for the Germans
17 More shootings
18 Robbed by Hungarian police
19 A Nazi officer offers to save mother and child
20 Surviving outside the ghetto - Father returns
21 Hiding to get out of the ghetto - twice
22 The barn houses two children
23 Hiding with parents in a roof-less barn
24 Moving to another barn
25 Life in the bunker - under the barn
26 Uncle Velvel’s death
27 Molested by a family friend - survival in the bunker
28 Leaving the barn and digging a hole in the forest, 1944
29 Liberated by the Russians - train to Chernowitz hospital
30 Adjusting to freedom and school
31 Return to Kolomyja - leaving for Poland - digging up the violin
32 Tuberculosis - move to Wroclaw, 1947
33 Well furnished apartment vacated by fleeing Germans
34 School
35 Friction with mother
36 Music success
37 Love
38 Mother’s sickness - vacation on the Baltic
39 1953 - 18 years old - admission to university, medical academy
40 End of first love
41 Family and friends
42 Dancing and friends
43 Adam arrives
44 Preparations for wedding
45 Wedding June 24, 1956
46 Polish restrictions for Jews - Permission to go to Israel - farewells
47 Sponsored Jews from Russia to Poland from where it is possible to emigrate
48 Febr. 28, 1957 arrival in Israel - pregnancies, university, jobs, mother dies
49 1967 war - decision to go to Canada where long resident relatives will sponsor them
50 Father re-marries
51 Sept. 7, 1968 arrival in Toronto - getting settled in jobs, schools for the children, buying house - father’s visit - reunion with friends from Wroclaw - belly dancing
52 Father died
53 Early retirements
54 Search for biological parents
55 Solving the puzzle
56 Talking and writing about the past


I would like to thank my parents, Sara and Israel Milbauer, who were always shining examples for me. I will treasure every moment of our lives together. You truly gave me life when you saved me from the Nazi’s clutches. No child could ever have been blessed with better parents. You sheltered me from what you thought would be a painful and traumatic reality until your last days. I will always be grateful to you for carefully but persistently keeping Velvel Milbauer’s memory alive for me. And Nelly’s too. Now after all these years, these memories have so much meaning for me. They have allowed me to see my life in a way I could never have imagined. The memory of Velvel and Nelly, and especially the legacy Velvel left for me through his violin, speaks so clearly to me. This was your most valuable gift to me. The knowledge you gave me of Velvel and Nelly has allowed me to see them as people and I will treasure their memory forever.

Special thanks to my family: Joshua Milbauer, Moses and Mina Blaufeld, Yetta Blaufeld, Luci Zoltak; to Dr. M. Neider, for being there to save my mother’s life, and to our great family friend, Baruch Ertenstreich, with whom we shared the most difficult times of our lives in the Kolomyja Ghetto and the bunker in the village of Turka.

I am grateful that we all survived to welcome our liberation and the renewal of our long awaited freedom. I would not be here, writing this story, if it were not for the heroic people who endangered their own lives to help save ours during the Holocaust. My deepest gratitude goes to Jozef Beck, Rozalia Beck, Vasil and Maria Olehrecky, and Vasil and Paraska Hapiuk.

I would like to thank my husband, Adam Shtibel, for whom my writing of this book was a difficult experience. I know that while I was working on this project I was not living in the present, but engrossed in the far past. Adam, I know that you were concerned about the pain and suffering I would feel if I re-opened the painful memories of the past. You were right, it did open the wounds. I am grateful for your understanding and patience.

I would like to give my warm thanks to my dear friend, Myrna Riback, who urged me to write my story. I am grateful for your help in preparing the manuscript, your guidance and support when I needed it. I will always treasure this. I am especially grateful to Dahlia Riback for taking special interest in my story and for the most valuable contribution in editing my book.

From the bottom of my heart, I want to thank both my daughters, Barbara Zimmerman and Iris Weinberg, for their deep devotion, assistance, and constant support and advice in the preparation of this manuscript. I am also thankful to my two sons-in-law, Martin Zimmerman and Dan Weinberg, for their enthusiasm for and support of my work. I consider myself extremely fortunate to have such dedicated and loving children and they are my greatest treasures. I love you and am very proud of both of you.

Last but not least I want to thank my granddaughters, Shari Zimmerman, Julie Zimmerman, Ashley Zimmerman, Sophie Ostrovsky and Elisse Ostrovsky for believing in me, for listening to my life stories, for expressing their pride, and encouraging me to write my book.

I am reminded of a simple summertime breakfast in our trailer with our youngest granddaughters, Sophie, then 6 years old, and Elisse, then 5. Neither of them wanted eggs for breakfast. Adam tried to encourage them by explaining how healthy eggs were for children. “When I was your age,” he told them, “I ate eggs every day.” Elisse, without hesitation replied, “Dziadzia (Grandfather in Polish) how could you have eaten eggs every day? You were starving during the time of the Holocaust when you were a child and had no food at all.” Adam and I were speechless. They knew us. They knew what we had been through. To us it was confirmation that we had been able to impart to our granddaughters the struggle for survival that we experienced.

We both realized at that moment that we had achieved our goals and the dark days of suffering and devastation under the Nazis would never be forgotten or passed over unnoticed.


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