On 31st of May, 1939, 24-year-old Fira Melamedzon crosses the Polish-Romanian border on her way to Palestine. She will never come back to Poland. She takes a train to Constanta, where she changes to the Romanian ship „Transilvania”. Entering the ports in Istanbul, Piraeus and Alexandria, she finally disembarks at the Tel Aviv Port.
We place here some Fira’s memories of her first days in Palestine, complementing a story you can find in the book.
Dianka hugged by Tatulinski
At the special request of Daddy, I brought Dianka to Palestine. He didn’t want to leave her in Poznan. I worried a little bit as she was in danger of being quarantined for two weeks in order to make sure that the dog was healthy. I considered leaving her at my cousin’s, Bronka Szerc, in Warsaw. Her little son Rysio wished to have a dog, but Daddy told me to take her with me.
I kept Dianka on a leash when I got out of the motor boat which transported me from ship to land. Suddenly, Tatulinski, standing among the people welcoming their relatives, started to call, „Fira! Fira!”. The dog recognized his voice, got out and rushed towards him. She dug under the fence separating the port from a street and soon got hugged by Tatulinski. I breathed a sigh of relief. Released from the dog and caring about it, I went through passport control and fell into my Daddy’s arms too.
We went to a hotel in Tel Aviv and we had been meeting our Polish friends for next three days. We visited the Brzeziny people, who came here. I met Adas Skowron’s brother, who was just coming back to Poland. I also saw Edzia Einstein, Madzia’s younger sister, whom I met once in Poznan, when she came to visit my parents. Now, she visited us in the hotel.
After three days we went to Jerusalem. I wanted to take a bus but Daddy decided to take a taxi. He said it would be safer. On the way to Jerusalem there are mountains and a gorge, known for the attacks of sniping Arabs. It is easier to escape or avoid the danger when you go by taxi than by bus.
Yet nobody attacked us and we reached Jerusalem and the house of Daddy located on the corner of Ezra and Malachi Streets in the Kerem Abraham district. Daddy let all four flats in this house and lived in a rented room at one of his tenants.
In the company of Henieks
Just after a few days since my arrival in Jerusalem I was surrounded by my old friends from Poznan, who came here before me. I made friends with Rutka Abkiewicz. I had met her several years earlier, when she had been studying in Poznan but she left for Palestine in 1935. She worked in a restaurant in Jaffa Street, when Eliezer Pereg, one of the owner’s sons, took fancy to her. Finally, she married him and they had a little son.
Rutka let me join the company of her friends, former students from Poland. Some of them worked now for the Jewish police helping the British, who governed Palestine at that time. There were two Henieks among them. Both of them were interested in me and they started to show me Jerusalem. One of them was taller, another shorter. They tried to spent with me as much time as possible. Rutka laughed at me and she said they fell in love with me. I liked their company, so we went to some cafes in Jaffa Street or played tennis in the Rehavia neighbourhood, near my present flat. I brought my own tennis racket with me. The Old City was inhabited by Arabs and inaccessible for Jews. However, in August, on the day of Tisha B’Av, Jews were allowed to pray at the Wailing Wall, so my Henieks told me to go and see it. We went through the Jaffa Gate, and then along the narrow streets to the Wailing Wall, which was located in a narrow street, among Arabian houses at that time. Although all the Jews in Poland missed this sacred place, I felt disappointed while touching the huge stones now. I couldn’t feel the atmosphere of prayer, nor of a holiness. It was an ordinary street with Arabs walking or riding their donkeys along it. It was only us, Jewish people, who stopped there to pray.
One day, the taller Heniek took me for a walk towards the East Jerusalem. There was a cemetery there. It was afternoon, after dinner and we could see the mountains of Jordan in the distance. Heniek, who loved Palestine, said: – Look at this beautiful sky, mountains, earth. I replied: – The mountains here are of a dirty colour, beige and light brown. I say, when you go up in the Polish mountains, you could see fields, meadows, carpets of wonderful colours. He continued: – Look at the sky. Can you see these little parts of purple tones, playing in the air? I said: – I can’t see anything. Just the air.
Three years later, when my son Rami was still a baby, I went out to the roof of my house and hung wet nappies out to let them dry in the sun. Then, I took a look at the neighbourhood and looking far at the horizon, I suddenly noticed pink and purple little points trembling in the air. I saw what Henio had noticed earlier. I was shocked as I realized that I loved this country very much.
Marriage with Abrasza
Mummy came to Palestine on 21st of August, nine days before the outbreak of the war. She took the same way which I did. After she had disembarked at the Tel Aviv Port, I surprised her by saying that I would get married with a young man in two days. His name is Abrasza Salanski and he comes from Lithuania.
Our plans were different at first. Mummy was to help me to find a „fake” husband. However, on 25th of August, the British were going to abolish the rule that let a wife of a Palestinian gain Palestianian citizenship on 25th of August, so I had to get married at once. Before Mummy joined us, Tatulinski, Abrasza and me had agreed to make a fake wedding. When I get used to it , the marriage may become real.
Abrasza came to Palestine five years before me. It was difficult for me to communicate with him as he spoke only Hebrew and beautiful Jewish language. I had to speak my poor German.
He was really kind and he proved to be the best dancer among all young people I met in Palestine. So, I went dancing with him quite often. He flattered me, saying that he never had such a good dancer as me. Every day, after work, he came to invite me to a café. So, I spent less and less time with Henieks. I also liked that he came to Palestine after a year or two of studying at Polytechnic Institute in Kaunas. He started to continue his studies here but he gave it up when he got a very well-paid job at a bank, thanks to his father’s cousin’s connections and support, who was a cashier at this bank. I hoped that when I learnt Hebrew one day, we would understand each other also in the field of literature or arts.