By Elaine Rosenberg Miller
Today we celebrate the birthday of my father, Charles Rosenberg.
He was born in Ulanow, Poland, the oldest of three sons and three daughters.
My father was a leader and provider for his family since the age of 12.
A few weeks after, the war started in 1939, a Soviet soldier knocked on his family’s door, and said, in Yiddish, "We are leaving in the morning. If you know what's good for you, you'll come with us."
He convinced his parents that they must flee Ulanow and go east into the Soviet Union.
Prior to the war, Ulanow had about 1500 Jewish inhabitants.
After the war, excluding the residents that had gone to the USSR, about 15 to 16 Jewish boys remained alive in Ulanow.
My friend and our fellow congregant, Gary's father, Michael, from the neighboring town of Nisko, was one of them.
When I met Gary here in Florida about eighteen years ago, he told me that the name Ulanow sounded familiar. He gave me his father's phone number and I called him that night.
Michael, a teenager, had gone into Ulanow around the same that time my father left.
Michael survived seven work camps and extermination camps.
He was one of those fifteen boys.
Gary directed me to a book, THEY SAY IT NEVER HAPPENED, written by a survivor who stayed behind in Ulanow.
I underlined the Jewish sounding names and read them to my father.
“Oh, that's what happened to him," my dad said when I told him of a schoolmate who had been shot for harboring a potato.
During the war, my father was selected by the Governor General of Tajikistan to be his chauffeur and bodyguard. He carried a firearm and was exempt from the draft. His family was given new housing and they were all protected.
When the war was over, the Governor General asked him if he would like to stay in the Soviet Union.
My father, all of twenty-five, had the wits to say "I have learned so much about the glories of communism, I want to return to Poland to teach it to the Polish people."
He married my mom, Eva in 1948.
She was a survivor of Auschwitz and Wiestiegiersdorf,
She later told me that when she met my father she thought she was the luckiest girl on earth.
My father said,”When I married, my life began.”
They arrived in the U.S. in June, 1949 with their infant daughter, Esther.
He began to look for work the next day.
Later, he founded a trucking business with his brother and brother-in-law, which grew over the years.
Through his experiences, my father remained a proud Jew whether resisting Polish anti-Semitism, Nazism or Communism.
He carried his Tifillim into the Soviet Union and he carried them out.
My father once told me story about his family’s life in the Soviet Union.
Early in the war years, they suffered great food deprivation.
One day, his mother, Kreindel, obtained some horsemeat.
She gave it to her children, but she wouldn’t eat it.
At the time, I didn’t understand the significance of what she had done.
Later, I understood.
She had set a moral example.
She had sustained her children, telling them, impliedly, that in the face of homelessness, statelessness, daily threats of death, they were not victims that they were right and the oppressors were wrong. Sometimes, spiritual succor is even more important than material sustenance.
This is a lesson my father learned from his parents and the community in which he was raised.
He had a portable sense of self arising out of having grown up in a cohesive Jewish community, his family, the Torah, Jewish values.
They enabled him to succeed in whatever country or culture he found himself.
My father, by personal example, taught my sister and I, and all who know him, ideals of family loyalty, love of Judaism and the Jewish people.
In addition, he had an extraordinary character trait.
He was always willing to take responsibility for himself, his actions and the needs of those around him, whether his parents, siblings, his own family and his extended family.
He was and is, in essence, the Patriarch.
Mom, your grandchildren, your brother and sisters, nephews and nieces and friends all join me in thanking you for everything you have done and everything you are.
Happy Birthday and L'Chaim!
from the June 2010 Edition of the Jewish Magazine