Excerpt #1: When Ben lived in Warsaw
Lucky Me: That I was Born To be able to write about it!
I thank God daily for preserving my memory in my advanced age because it still is working quite well. I will try to elaborate as much as my powers of recall will allow me. We lived in Warsaw, in a four-sided building with a large courtyard in the center. There was a wide gate for horses and wagons to enter the courtyard to deliver furniture and all kinds of goods.
There was a regular size door for people to walk thru. In the very middle of the yard was a fenced in little garden for children to play.
The gate was locked promptly at 11 pm by the Polish janitor. To enter after that late hour you had to ring the bell for the attendant/janitor. You usually paid him a few groszy (pennies) thanked him profusely–and no problem. Things were a very different during the frosty season. He would bide his sweet time to get dressed before rolling out, cursing and screaming. To stay on amicable terms with him–and not be locked out of your apartment overnight, you had better slip him some extra cash. He was the “eyes and ears of the housing complex. He knew where the illegal gatherings were taking place and who was a communist or an anarchist. Invariably, right before International Workers Solidarity Day every May 1st, the police, with a little help from “our” janitor, were able to ferret out all the subversive elements and haul them off to the chad-gadya (jailhouse).
The exact address was: Nowolipie 15 apartment 33, 3rd floor.
Book Excerpt: Ben’s First Skating Lesson
In the winter we usually tried to walk together to cheder (Jewish school after the public school day) and return in the home in the evening.
Many times we were greeted with stones or got into fights with the Polish boys.
In my third year in cheder I made a pair of ice skates with two pieces of wood, fastened copper wire tied around my shoes and went to the river Mogielanka to skate. Once, before cheder, I got on the ice with the wood tied to the shoes and went skating on the river. It went very well and I had lots of fun. Suddenly I landed in the water. I somehow managed to climb out and ran to cheder. The Rabbi undressed me and gave some rags to put on until my clothes got dry.
Before dismissal, and in the front of the whole class, the Rebbi grabbed the kantchik (a whip) and wacked me over the butt, and afterwards the teacher told my parents what had happened. That was my first and last skating lesson!