Silver Star Itka Zygmuntowicz
“I found here freedom”
In 1953, the couple
came to the United States through a relocation program for displaced
Jewish persons. They arrived with their two sons (one just four years
old, the other only nine months). Philadelphia became their new home,
and Itka has lived there ever since—and from 1970, in the same house.
America, she had two more sons and devoted herself to raising them
until the youngest of the four was in school all day. She began to do
volunteer work, first at a local hospital, then with senior citizens,
then with Jewish prisoners. She began speaking to groups about her
Holocaust experiences in the 1970s, which she continues to do today.
She now has six grandchildren.
Up until the 1980s, she thought
all her relatives had died. Then she received a letter from a woman
living in Falls Church, Virginia. The woman turned out to be her
cousin, whose family had come to America when she was four. “I went
from not having a single relative to all of a sudden having over a
hundred relatives. They welcomed me so much.” And they had pictures of
Itka’s family, something she never had after the Holocaust. The family
now gets together each year for Thanksgiving.
As happens with
time, Itka’s losses continued. Her son Michael died in a car accident
when he was 26. After 52 years of marriage, her husband died in a
separate car accident. Her very close friend Bina died last year.
could cry for the rest of my life for all the tragedies, and I could
thank God for all the blessings in my life,” she said tearfully.
grief eases and then gives way to a lighter story. “I love company, and
I’ll tell you something funny. A few years ago, I was on a train, and
next to me was a woman, and we started a conversation. She asked me if
I had any hobbies. I said, ‘I’m a collector.’ She said, ‘Oh, what do
you collect?’ I said, “I collect nice people.’ It started as a joke,
but you should see the collection of people I’m in contact with. I
never have time to be lonely. . . . I like everything about my life.”
(Click Silver Star Itka Zygmuntowicz Photo Gallery to see pictures of her early life and relatives lost in the Holocaust.)