Witnesses to History Keepers of Memory
Witnesses to History Keepers of Memory
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Paula Bultz

Bella’s portrait

Paula Bultz lovingly preserves the framed portrait below which is of her mother Bella, pictured at the age of 17. When the war broke out, Paula and her mother left Warsaw (Poland) and fled to the Soviet Union while her father was conscripted into the Polish army. Bella hid a few photos in her muff, including this one, which she carried with her. Bella and Paula were the only family members who survived. The few pictures that Paula was able to save are the only evidence of a past life that she can hold onto.

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This is my mother when she was 17. My parents were neighbours, and they knew each-other all their
lives. My father was five years older than my mother, and the way my mother tells it is that there was
never a time when she wasn’t in love with my father, but he ignored her until she was 17. And you know
if you know my mother, you know that you couldn’t ignore her. So, finally at 17, they became a couple,
and I am the result. My father was called up to join the Polish army in 1939 because he had served as a
soldier in the Polish army before in his youth. And he died, from what we know, he must have died
somewhere around 1940-41. We were sent off to Siberia, my mother and I were prisoners, and we had
no contact, so we really don’t know. Our family roots were very deeply rooted in the Polish soil, and
they were extremely nationalistic, and Poland was their country, and Warsaw was their home, and
because especially my parents were such nationalistic believers in Poland, so that’s why my mother and
I ended up in Siberia as prisoners, because my mother wouldn’t give up her Polish identity papers. So,
we were considered enemies, and we were sent off to prison. When the war broke out, the apartment
where we lived was bombed, but my mother was always ready, she had a few photographs in her muff.
So, when we knew that there is going to be an attack – and we ran downstairs because we lived on the
third floor – and that there is going to be an attack, we put on our coats and we ran, because it was the
fall already, and she always had these few pictures she had in her muff. And of course, she guarded
them with her life. And this is the only thing we have because nobody survived. My mother and I were
the only survivors from this once large family, because my mother had five brothers and two sisters.

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Rena Schondorf

Portrait of a grandmother and her grandchildren