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Mon Jan 26, 2015, 03:11 AM

Interview: Krystyna Chiger, holocaust survivor

KRYSTYNA Chiger was four years old when the Germans invaded Poland. Her brother Pawel was, as she puts it, “just half a year old”.

Born into a successful, middle-class Jewish family in Lvov, she spent the first years of her life in a grand apartment overlooking one of the most vibrant cities in Poland, now part of the Ukraine. “It was a magical place, a Renaissance city, only it was not the best place to be a Jew,” writes Chiger, with typical restraint, in her memoir.

Lvov, known as Little Venice, was a city of winding cobbled streets opening on to old squares of flowers, fountains, and stone churches. Beneath those streets ran their counterpart: the city sewers, as cold and mysterious as the underbelly of a snake. This network of dark, fetid tunnels would become the family’s home for more than a year. The sewer would save their lives.

Chiger’s first inkling of peril had come on the morning of 1 September, 1939. Chiger’s father took her to the balcony of their apartment. He pointed to the Messerschmitts overhead and told his daughter that the Germans, already at war, were on the outskirts of Lvov. “That was the same year my mother first took me to kindergarten,” she recalls. “I remember holding her hand, not wanting her to leave. It was difficult, but of course it was nothing compared to what was coming. I stood on our balcony with my father and he told me to look up. ‘My Krzysha,’ he said. ‘This is our end.’” As a child, it must have seemed incomprehensible. “Yes,” she says with a tiny, surprising laugh. “I knew it was bad, but of course I didn’t know just how bad.”

Chiger is now 76, a retired dentist living on Long Island with her husband, Marian, also a Holocaust survivor. She has a wonderfully low, cracked, heavily accented voice, as lived in as an old shoe. She laughs softly and often, and believes that humour was essential to her family’s survival.



Soon, these stories will not be available in first-person.

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Reply Interview: Krystyna Chiger, holocaust survivor (Original post)
Behind the Aegis Jan 2015 OP
Behind the Aegis Jan 2015 #1
Raine1967 Jan 2015 #2
Behind the Aegis Jan 2015 #3

Response to Behind the Aegis (Original post)

Mon Jan 26, 2015, 01:08 PM

1. It's a long read, but worth it.

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Response to Behind the Aegis (Reply #1)

Mon Jan 26, 2015, 03:14 PM

2. TRuly amazing. Thank you for this. eom.

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Response to Raine1967 (Reply #2)

Mon Jan 26, 2015, 04:03 PM

3. You are very welcome.

I think this paragraph stuck out the most:

“Even in the worst hours, we laughed,” she says. “We could somehow always come up with something that would make us burst out laughing. I think that this saved us too. It saved our minds.” Sometimes her voice breaks, as though she is crying, but the extremity of her childhood experience taught her not to cry. Showing fear or making a sound meant capture by the Nazis, which meant the concentration camps, and death. And so, decades on, telling her extraordinary and heartbreaking life story, one of the countless effects of the Holocaust is that Chiger finds it difficult to shed tears.

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