Tzipporah Spiro (Part I)

Please tell me where you were born.

I, Tzipporah Spiro nee Pluczenik, am named for my father’s grandmother. I was born in Cracow, Poland, on January 28, 1938. We lived on Dombrowski Street in an apartment that was owned by my paternal grandfather, Shmuel Yosef Pluczenik. The building had four floors. On the first floor there were various stores; my maternal grandfather rented one of these stores where he sold hardware. My paternal grandparents owned a textile mill nearby. My sister and I were born in this building, where we lived in harmony, until 1939 when our world changed completely.

What memories can you share with us about your family?

My father, Eliyahu Pluczenik (Eli), was the eldest of three brothers. Soon after he was bar mitzvah, his mother passed away, leaving his father with three young children; my father who was just 13 years old, his brother who was 7, and the youngest little boy of 3 years old. Although my grandfather had a good running business and was well off, it was difficult for him to take care of the children, so he remarried. Together with his new wife he had two more boys. Now they were a happy family of five boys.

My father was a Belzer chassid. He wore a shtreimel and bekeshe but he never had a beard. Many times, he went with his father-in-law, my maternal grandfather, to the Radomska Rebbe.

My father was an askan in the community. He was involved with the mikveh and the cemetery. He was a very good man and a wonderful father.

My mother, Brenda Pluczenik nee Shor, was born in Cracow. She learned to sew when she was quite young. She would sew all her own clothing and ours too. We had a woman who came to help with the laundry on laundry day.

My mother was involved in the Bikur Cholim and did volunteer work. Together with my grandmother, they cooked meals for the poor and then distributed the food. My mother was a lovely lady.

My parents were married in 1933. My older sister Devorah Morgenstern (Pluczenik) was born in 1934.

What was life like when you were growing up?

Cracow was a beautiful city. There was a large Jewish population with shuls spread out all over. Our neighbors were mostly Jewish. I grew up with electricity and cold running water; hot water needed to be heated up. My grandparents had a telephone in their store.

What was Shabbos like?

My maternal grandparents would often spend Shabbos at our house. My father led a beautiful Shabbos table with lots of zemiros and divrei Torah. My father’s two youngest brothers would come over on Shabbos and tell us stories about the parashah and other midrashim that they had learned in cheder.

What form of education did you receive?

I did not have a formal education until I was 6 years old. My older sister would study, and I picked up lots of information from her.

My mother was one of Sara Schneirer’s first students in 1930. She would retell lovely stories from the years she spent with her.

I speak four languages: Polish, German, Yiddish and English. In addition, I understand French. My grandmother as well as my mother, felt that it was important to know another language besides for Polish — just in case we would one day need it. My grandmother would joke that with ‘Polish you can go only as far as the border;’ little did she know. My mother hired a Jewish German nanny, Frau Erna. She did a great job. So, my first language was German.

How did you spend your summer vacations?

My family traveled out to the mountains on the outskirts of Cracow.

Did you have relatives in other European cities?

My mother had family living in Lodz and Lublin. One time my maternal grandfather traveled to Turkey to visit his uncle who was living there. He remained there for a while, long enough that he was issued a Turkish passport. During the war, my grandfather thought that he was safe for he had in his possessions this passport. But when he was caught using it, he realized all too soon that he would have no benefit from it.

to be continued…

These survivors’ memoirs are being compiled by Project Witness.

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