Leah Pobiel

reunion in Eretz Yisrael

Leah was seven years old when Nazi Army invaded Bukovina in the summer of 1941. Within the first days of occupation the Nazis and their Romanian collaborators killed 50,000 Jews. Although Leah and her family survived the invasion, they were soon forced on an epic journey across the Ukraine to a concentration camp in Transnistria.

Many Jews died of exposure, starvation and disease. “There was no food, no shelter — people died like flies.” In Popvich, Ukraine, Leah’s family was housed in one room with a family of ten. “At night the family was alive and in the morning all ten were frozen to death.” During the years of migration and incarceration Leah lost both her parents and one brother but six of the siblings managed to survive.

In April of 1944, Leah’s sisters Clara and Bracha were the first of the family to leave for Palestine. Too ill to travel, Leah was temporarily left behind as her sisters sailed from Europe on a Turkish ship filled with orphaned children. Upon their arrival in Haifa, the orphans were placed with families whose religious practices were similar to their own. Henrietta Szold, the Zionist leader and founder of Hadassah, personally placed Leah and her six siblings with the same family. “It was a miracle, we were all together.”

Leah didn’t talk to her children about her experiences, “I never talked about my past. I wouldn’t want to put this burden on them. They should never know a war like my generation.”

From her experiences, Leah offers this warning: “Today anti- Semitism is waking up in this country. We have a lot of work to do.”