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Nina's Story

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Nina's Postwar Story

 Compiled by Anna Williams from student interviews, authorized by Nina
(see Anna's narrative about working on this project)
May 28, 2002


Towards the end of the war I met a kind young Polish man. I was working in the Russian medical unit in Zmerinka (now in Romania) and he was living in a ghetto there. As I was walking to work one day, an electrician on the street noticed I was not Russian. When I told him I was Polish he introduced me to a Polish friend of his, Josef.[1] Despite being half-starved, sick, exhausted and war-weary, Josef and I connected. After only a few days together we just knew we were right for each other. However, as Zmerinka fell under Soviet control, he became a soldier and soon after he was sent to the front in Berlin. I begged him to take me with him, and was very angry when he said it was impossible. I was still mad when we parted and certainly never expected to see him again, but he promised to find me if either of us survived. This turned out to be the one relationship that brought a future to my experience in the Holocaust. While I had lost everyone and everything near and dear to me, I did meet up with Josef again, but more about that later. [2]

RETURN TO LVOV (Spring 1945)

The old man who gave me a piece of bread told me I was on the wrong train and showed me which train went to Lvov. I got off when I was tired or hungry. I dug for radishes in the fields and bathed in rivers and streams that I passed. To keep my confidence going I just kept telling myself, another train will come.

After about two weeks I finally caught my first sight of Lvov. However, Allied and German bombings had reduced it to rubble and it didn’t seem the same place. Once my home, where I had laughed and played as a child, now it felt strange and frightening. Yet I was determined to find my family.

I wandered the crowded streets hoping that some relative would peak his or her head out the window and beckon me up.  No one did.

Upon seeing a makeshift farmers´ market my stomach yearned for food and I hurried toward it. While attempting to barter, I heard a familiar voice.

“I'll give you two new shirts, sewn by my mother, for a dozen potatoes,” a woman quibbled loudly nearby.

As I drew nearer I realized it was Hania, our dear maid from before the war. She didn’t even recognize me with my tattered clothes, and sickly, un-bathed aspect, but when I told her who I was she embraced me warmly. She insisted that I stay with her and our reunion was wonderful. At first I resented for her seemingly petty worries such as shortages of meat or coal when my family and I had been with nothing. However, upon Hania´s persistence I soon learned to realize that I could not lash out at every bystander who had not been forced into death camps. I had to accept that not all Germans and not all Poles were guilty. I needed to seek refuge where arms were held out to me, and now those arms were Hania's. [3] She even remembered my favorite meals and went to extremes to prepare them.

 I continued the search for my family going to all the places I thought my sisters might be. I told Hania that I could not stay with her because I would only stay in Lvov if I found family. On one of these trips I found some distant relatives from my father’s side. They had been in hiding during the war and although I didn’t know them at all they took me in. It was nice living with a family again, however, I was desperately jealous that they had stayed together when mine had been ravished. Even though we were related, I had never met them before, so strong family bonds did not hold us together. [4] At this time, I could not yet adjust to a normal life and I spent my days wandering the streets looking for familiar faces.[5]

While in Lvov I was offered a job trading scarce goods across the border, I suppose this would be called the “Black Market” today. A Holocaust survivor named Heinrich Rensky introduced me to this line of business. At night, approximately once or twice a month I would travel with Rensky some 100 miles past the Polish border to buy cheese, meat, and fine oils from the farmers´ market. Upon returning we sold the goods at three times their original price. [6]

A NEW BEGINNING (Early 1946)

Lvov was now part of the Soviet Union. For a few months the Soviets allowed people who lived on Polish soil prior to the war’s beginning to leave. At the same time, I became aware that the refuge organizations under Polish control were better organized. I had been in Lvov for a year and had not found my family so I embraced the chance and left to Katowice in Poland. [7]

In Kattowice I searched numerous organizations asking about the whereabouts of my family to no avail. These organizations provided refugees with ration cards and housing. Many Germans had fled because they were not sure how the Poles would treat them after the war. I moved into a nice furnished apartment that a German woman had abandoned. [8]

One memorable night about six months later I received a knock on my door and was astounded to find Josef smiling down on me. He had searched for me for a year around Lvov and finally decided to come to the Polish side. I believe it to be a true miracle that he found me. In the midst of the tragedy of losing my family, I found the love of my life. It proves to me that some good can always come out of bad.

Josef soon decided we needed to leave the city because Anti-Semitic sentiment still plagued these regions. The Poles and Ukrainians feared that the returning refugees would want to reclaim their possessions.

I remember remarks Polish people said to arriving Jews: “Hey, I thought Hitler was supposed to get rid of all the Jews!”

We even heard of pogroms, or massacres against Jewish people, taking place in surrounding areas. In September of 1946 in Kielce, a nearby city, 180 Jews were murdered upon returning to their hometown. [9]

I wanted to stay because I still carried the hope that I would find my family, but Josef's words, which I still remember today, convinced me to leave, “I did not save myself from Germans to be killed by Poles.”

However, before leaving Katowice Josef gave me an ultimatum: marriage or separation. I knew I was in love with him, but wasn’t sure if I was ready to marry, yet he persisted. I finally decided to marry him and truly felt swept off my feet. According to Jewish tradition, ten people must be present for a wedding to be valid. So Josef gathered ten people from the street and consecrated our union. To this day I still believe he paid those ten witnesses. 

Since Greece was the first country able to establish peace with the Axis powers, Greek refugees were allowed to return home, while other refugees were still in limbo. Thus, in order to leave, the two of us and a group of other Jews pretended to be Greek. On the train ride we had to keep silent so no one would be able to recognize our true identities. This was very difficult for me and at one point I did speak by mistake. However, thankfully it did not draw enough attention to put us in danger.

Our ultimate goal was to reach Palestine. Many Jewish refugees traveled there after the war as Zionists in the later 19th century established it as the Jewish homeland. After about a month we arrived in Vienna, Austria. The twelve of us stayed together in a big abandoned apartment planning the rest of our trip and finding ways to feed ourselves. I assume the apartment was left by a family who had to flee or was killed in the war because all the furniture was left and everything was in tact. Starvation plagued the city and our group suffered along with everyone else. However, we luckily became acquainted with a German family, the Auslers, who, upon Josef's insistence, gave us a wonderful potato dinner. We were starving and had not had potatoes in years and they tasted so good![10]


An organization set up to help refugees told us we should no longer stay in Vienna, but should go to Salzburg in western Austria, to a displaced persons camp. Camps like these, called DP camps, were set up after the war to take care of refugees and help them find their families. We were given transportation to Salzburg and, once there, a place to sleep and regular meals. Because the camp provided food, our situation had improved. At first we slept on mats on the floor, but later we were provided with bunk beds. Because of the tight living situation diseases spread rapidly and after a month I became very ill.

I remember Josef coming in to ask me a question on day and I couldn’t even answer him. Josef fought hard to get me to a hospital because, without money or transportation, even this was a great challenge. I had a myriad of health problems including scarlet fever and meningitis and was in and out of the hospital for a year and a half. It was a very trying time as Josef was worried out of his wits and spent all his energy helping me. I really don’t know what I would have done if he had not been there. He was my stronghold and his dedication to me helped me survive.[11]


While I was sick the DP organization had provided us with a small apartment. Soon after, they encouraged us to write to relatives in the United States to see if we could move there. The organization took care of people in transition, but could only support them until they got on their feet again. I wrote to my aunt in New York, my mother’s older sister. She and her family had visited us for almost a year between 1937 and 1938 and I had begged my mother to let me return to the United States with them. She would not because I was the youngest daughter and the only one still living at home.

My aunt answered my letter right away with an eager invitation. She and the DP organization managed to get us papers almost a year later. Even though I was still quite ill but the doctors allowed me to go. Josef was very excited about moving to the United States, but I still wanted very much to go to Palestine. In a way, I think it was for him that I came to the United States.

In 1947 we traveled across the Atlantic for a month. I never accustomed myself to the sway of the boat and felt seasick the entire time. I thought it was the scarlet fever’s lasting effects, yet, when I stepped on shore, I immediately began feeling better.

My aunt set us up in a hotel for a few months and we began settling in. At first I did not like the United States because it was so difficult to communicate not knowing English. Yet, we found a room to rent from a wonderful family, and my relatives helped me get a job in a candy store. Josef had a difficult time finding work. My aunt offered to help support us, but I did not accept because Josef and I were determined to support ourselves, no matter what it took.

The candy store where I worked was a very successful, expanding company. My main job was designing decorative baskets and assisting in the back. However, sometimes the manager asked me to attend the customers and this made me extremely nervous. I was not comfortable with my English and was very embarrassed to put my accent on display. I tried to avoid doing so, but usually the customers were nice and impressed that I was able to communicate with them after having only been in the United States a few weeks. I ended up working there for twelve years and really developed a knack for helping customers.

Josef finally found a job in New Jersey in a meat factory. He worked from 6am to 4pm but the commute was 2hrs each way so he left the house at 4am and did not return until 6pm. We hardly saw each other.[12] This new life kept me so busy that I had no time to think. My daily routine dictated my life. We began putting Josef’s salary in a bank account to save for the future and committed to struggling by with just my salary. I regularly filled in on weekend shifts when people wanted time off. Many weeks I worked 60-65hrs. I went from work to home and some days we didn’t have anything to eat.

Although we lived in a Jewish community, no one wanted to share their Holocaust experiences. The Americans did not ask and for the other survivors it was too painful. It became a taboo subject. I always wanted to talk about it, but did not, not even with Josef. This was not a good way to deal with the trauma, but we had so many immediate challenges that bringing up painful memories would only cause more immediate difficulties.

I began to think, “What am I doing with myself, with my life now?” I wished so much that I could go back to my life before the war when I had everything. If only I could have my family back. Josef was my only comfort. He was so wonderful to me.

We were invited to our first Thanksgiving dinner at a friend’s house. It was such a beautiful meal that it made me long for home even more. I spent the whole meal wiping the tears away from my eyes. I cried from enjoyment at seeing a family enjoy one another’s company and for not being able to do so with my own.


Things changed when I got pregnant. At first I was afraid. I couldn’t bring myself to tell Josef, but he discovered it for himself. One day he asked me if I felt sick and I said, “Well, in a way yes, and in a way, no.” He was very supportive the whole time and the girls I worked with were wonderful. They gave me advice and we talked about all the personal things that an expecting mother might be reluctant to speak with her husband about. [13]

In 1948 my daughter Rosalynn was born and a year and a half later came Carol. We lived in an orthodox Jewish community and I raised my daughters in that environment. I wanted to teach them about their heritage and pass the traditions on to them. They attended a private Jewish school, in which boys and girls were separated and they learned Hebrew in the mornings.

In 1959, when we moved to California, it was like moving to a different world. At first I did not like it because leaving the bustle of the big city and my job saddened me. The change affected the girls a lot as well. All of a sudden they went from a strict orthodox setting to a co-ed public school in Beverly Hills. We also moved into our own house for the first time.

Still, we never sat down and told our children what had happened to us during the war. I mean, I told them some things, and answered their questions, but their curiosity never enticed them to ask about our specific stories. We also wanted to avoid making them feel different from their peers because their parents had gone through tremendous hardship. Essentially, I wanted to protect my children from the torture I went through and I did not want to pressure Josef. He never wanted to share, although the subject was always foremost in my mind. [14]

Now that they are adults with their own children, they realize the importance of sharing firsthand knowledge of the Holocaust on to the third generation. Fortunately, the third generation shows much interest and I hope that learning about it will aid in preventing it from ever happening again.


In 1988 my husband died. This was one of the most devastating moments of my life. He had been my stronghold since the war and I had been dependent on him. I let his determination and decision making guide me and felt completely alone with his loss. I had to pick my life up in pieces once again – I even had to learn how to write a check. Even now I feel miserable without him.


A good friend of mine lived through the Japanese internment during World War II. She had been sharing her story in local schools and persuaded me to share mine. The first time I spoke in front of students was during a week of tolerance that Carpenteria High School was holding. My friend told her story first and when it came my turn, I was all nerves. I could not think straight and did not know if I was going to break down or forget everything. I followed the notes I had brought, but once I began to tell my story, I no longer needed them. It was as if all the memories were flooding back to me after having kept them hidden from so many people for so long.

I feel that telling my story has allowed me to enter a new phase in my life. I am honored to be able to share one of histories´ most significant events with the young people of today so that its moment will not be forgotten. Not only have I been able to establish connections with hundreds of wonderful young people, but also I have made lasting friendships with various teachers and professors in the Santa Barbara area. I have since spoken numerous times at UC Santa Barbara and am working a on Holocaust project with students in the university. Through this project, the idea to return once again to Lvov came up and I made the trip with Professor Harold Marcuse and my daughter Carol. [15]


In August of 1999 the three of us went to Lvov. Since the break-up of the Soviet Union in 1989 Lvov is now in Ukraine and is called Lviv. Although I grew up there speaking Polish, now the main language is Ukrainian. So I communicated in English, although sometimes waiters understood my Polish. We visited the house where I spent my childhood, the apartment I lived in when the Germans came, as well as many other significant sites for Jews persecuted in WWII. The house where I spent my childhood is still intact and another family lives there now. Yet it is so changed that I hardly recognize it. In fact everything I remember from my childhood is utterly changed. It made me realize that the life I had there is truly in the past and the memories are mine to pass along. [16]


The pain of the Holocaust and losing my entire family to it is still with me every hour of every day. Incredibly, I have met people who say it did not exist. This infuriates me. The Holocaust affected every aspect of my life and to say it did not exist is an absolute denial of historical facts. I think that no punishment of the Nazis who exterminated people can make up for what they did. I still hold a grudge, and even today do not buy German products. However, if it were in my hands, I would not treat them the way they treated me. I try to move past the feeling of revenge because I also believe in human kindness and forgiveness.

Even now, Judaism is a big part of my life. I feel strongly in keeping up the traditions that I grew up with. My experience of being persecuted for these very traditions has been an impetus to continue them in my life and share them with my children. I am very proud to be Jewish.


And so, dear young people, as I am writing this letter to you, it occurs to me that perhaps its message is why I am still here. I am an elderly woman with just these memories to share. In a few years there won’t be any Holocaust survivors to tell you their stories firsthand, including me. My hope is that this letter will speak for me in the future. I encourage you to go the library and learn more about the Holocaust on your own, to become fully informed.

This was racism at its most terrible. A madman led his people like sheep into believing that Jews, Gypsies, upper-class Slavs, Homosexuals, and the mentally retarded were evil, lesser beings, worthy of extermination. So that all of its innocent victims, like my dear little Alma, will not be forgotten in vain, I ask just one thing of you: that you tell your own children about this hideous and shameful period of the twentieth century. Perhaps their children will tell theirs and this cycle will prevent people persecuting one another because of race or creed.

[1] Interview with Professor Marcuse's Prosem class 10/31/2001.

[2] Nina Morecki's Letter

[3] Carpenteria High School History of Nina Morecki. Spring 1995.

[4] Transcript from Post War Interview 6-3-99.

[5] Interview with Nina Morecki 5-27-2002. Interviewer: Anna Williams

[6] Interview with Nina Morecki by Mario, Joan, and Sabrina. March 1, 2000

[7] Interview with Nina Morecki by Mario, Joan, and Sabrina. March 1, 2000

[8] Transcription of Post War Interview 6-3-99.

[10] Transcription of interview with Nina Morecki 6-3-99.

[11] Transcription of interview with Nina Morecki 6-3-99.

[12] Transcription of interview with Nina Morecki 6-3-99.

[13] Transcription of interview 12-1-99. Tape 133Q. Interviewers: Colette, Christina, Julia, and Alana.

[14] Interview with Rosalynn Kohute, April, 2000. Interviewer: Esther Hirsch.

[15] Talk with Casey Roberts, Anna Williams, and Frieda Glantz. April 2002.

[16] Professor Macuse's Lviv Journal. August 1999.

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Uploaded January 2003, last updated March 15, 2005
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