My father was very much afraid. Firstly, it was like ripping out roots planted fifty-four years before and transplanting them into new ground. This is something which is not easy for people over fifty. Here, you know where to go to the clinic, to the shop and you know the language. This is the place you are used to and where you have an apartment. He really didn’t want to leave even though, in 1968, he had been thrown out of his job. They had thrown Jews out everywhere.
But the newspapers wrote – like father, like son – and vice versa, meaning that we were troublemakers, uncertain elements and they began throwing us out. Every day, the press wrote that, for example, someone had been expelled from the Ministry of Internal Affairs. They published a whole list of such people, hidden behind other Polish names.
So what does the barber’s co-operative do when that co-operative has only one Jew and, added to this, my father is the manager of the Podzamcze branch? They also threw him out. He was also sacked as the manager of the branch and sent somewhere where only one customer would come in on any day. But he had an apartment and work, of sorts. It was very difficult, but my father still didn’t want to leave.
We didn’t sleep the entire night before my trip, because it was the day when Armstrong landed on the moon – a historical day. They showed it all on television. I sat there and watched it all. Later, straight after the moon landing, we ordered a taxi and went to the Lublin railway station – just my family. And I left – alone.
In the newspapers they started to shout: ‘Like children, like parents’, and they began dismissing our parents from their jobs. It was a time when each day, newspapers would write that conspirators had been busted in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, that there had been purges in that ministry, that Lewandowski and earlier Ferenchait and before him Libermann and earlier Zendler, had been dismissed.
It was like that all the time. It turned out there were people in Poland who, being 18 or 20, hadn’t learnt that they were Jews until 1968. Their parents would hide them from the truth, and only after mum or dad had been fired for being Jewish and their names had been published, those people suddenly learned that they were Jews. For those young people it was a terrible blow. Their parents were often true Polish patriots.
(Source: March ‘68 – memories of Lublin emigrants)