Isreal

'What's in a name!' says Juliet when she hears that Romeo is a Montague, and yet names are of some importance. In the past, people were named according to their professions while writers have, through centuries up to the present time, used names as literary devices to characterize heroes or places. Our name could not have been better chosen: for the circumstances, Novak served the right purpose. First of all, the state was not yet one year old when we arrived, which was on 7 December 1948; Danny was bom 10 February 1949 and this too gave our life a completely new aspect. Due to circumstances Zvonko decided to give up his profession and become a citrus grower. We had to cope with the language, the climate, the people who surrounded us and were entirely different from those we had met before. We were, however, in a better position than most of the newcomers. We lived in a hotel and not in a camp, we hired an unfinished house and lived in a flat until the house was ready to move into, and essentially we had a basis on which to start - the grove in Hadera. After three years, when we left Hadera to settle in Haifa, the grove remained our main source of income for many years. Gradually we adjusted to the new surroundings; both had to learn a great deal. Orange growing suited Zvonko apparently more than his former profession. He once told me that his favorite subject would have been agriculture but he chose law, a subject that students with fewer financial means like himself could afford. Like many other owners of small groves Zvonko worked alone in our grove. At that time cultivation methods were different and much more tiring than today. Most of the work was done by hand; holes were dug around every tree to let the water enter through a pipe. Each tree was separately watered and the ever-growing grass was mown by hand. Zvonko supervised the picking, working himself with a small team of hired workers; small carts with horses or mules came to the grove and took the boxes laden with fruit into small packing houses. Here, a tiny staff of skilled packers prepared the fruit for transport. Zvonko did the job conscientiously; it was a full-time occupation. I had no less work at home with the baby, household and shopping, but I was luckier than many others who had to find employment and were not free to choose their working hours. The grove was a twenty minute drive from our home, and Zvonko could come and go whenever it suited us. He was always available and helped me so much! At that time I was not aware of these exceptional circumstances, indeed I was disappointed. I would have preferred to see Zvonko take a more suitable job, either in an office or starting a business with the capital we owned, but most of all I hoped he would master Hebrew, pass the required examination to practice law and resume his former profession. None of these wishes was realized, although Zvonko tried several times to combine citrus growing with other business: the buying of fish ponds was a trick - we never saw the ponds - and all ended with a trial to get back the invested money, with losses, of course; later in Haifa, the management and partnership in a restaurant was of very short duration, ending in a deficit; a course for office-workers proved unsuitable for Zvonko and he rejected a priori the suggestion to become a lawyer again. To judge from these facts, one might be tempted to believe that Zvonko was not capable of any new enterprise, which is certainly an entirely wrong presumption. By the honesty of his character, his principles ard standards of morality and his accurate judgement of what was right and wrong, he could not be reconciled with the cunning of people he had to deal with, even less with their deceitful conceptions. The way of life we chose was certainly most suitable for our child and he was our main concern. Danny grew up in the peacefull atmosphere of the country, playing on the spacious bare land around our house or in the garden, or running amidst the orange trees in our grove where we frequently joined Zvonko and spent the whole day there. There, on two boxes joined together with a coat or a blanket underneath, Danny had his afternoon nap. Each season had its own charm, in particular the picking season when heaps of oranges lay on the ground inviting Danny to a ball game. His greatest fun was to throw himself on the heap and roll down like a ball . The pure white orange blossom with the sweetest of smells exhilarated us in spring and in the summer Danny was delighted by the pipes from which gushes of water poured out while he sprinkled and splashed and played around with it. Later, when we moved to Haifa, we used to accompany Zvonko from time to time to visit the countryside that became so much part of Danny's childhood. There was a time when the grove symbolized the jungle and Danny with his friends climbed the orange trees imagining themselves Tarzans. Perhaps Dan's great love for nature originates from this first period of his life. Deep feelings are not expressed easily, in fact they almost cannot be equalled by words. As I was hardly able to express how I felt in the most tragic moments of my life, I am also unable to write of the happiness caused by our child. Could it have been different after so much suffering and deprivation? Moreover, Danny was a normal child, healthy, friendly, gay, clever, intelligent, good-hearted, dear, easy to guide, 'ein klassisches Kind' said his first lady pediatrician who controlled his development, and such he remained. We had no bigger problems with Dan; if there were problems, they were mine. As, for example, during the first years of our stay in Israel I was always afraid that another war may break out soon, I felt all the time a kind of restlessness, I wanted to lead a quiet life which in the Middle East was unlikely to be possible, I had nightmares seeing Danny as a soldier fighting for a lost cause, because I doubted that a small country like ours could resist the huge mass of enemies surrounding us, I hated all the nationalistic boasting about our dignified ancestry and exaggerated patriotism. Zvonko saw the future in even darker colors, but he was more realistic. When I proposed an alternative, 'let us try to live somewhere else', he firmly rejected this idea. During the Sinai war, in 1956, I asked for a permit to visit the USA and Canada, and our friends - Dr Neuberger in New York and the Bermanns in Montreal - sent us each an affidavit. Zvonko refused to go, so I went alone with Danny at the beginning of 1957 to realize very soon that Zvonko had been right: we would have been lost on that continent where life for people like us was much more difficult. We returned after six weeks with sweet memories of our short stay in the USA. I became reconciled to the fact that Israel was the place where we should live. The world was not yet ready to accept the idea that human beings have not to be judged by color, race, religion, nationality - will they ever? If we did not care about our Jewishness, others did. In writing these lines I am amazed how long I was not aware of these facts, certainly not in leaving Yugoslavia, the country we could have left for any other, without a particular wish to come to Israel, indeed we knew so little about it and about our identity. Besides, where else could we find a better and more secure source for our living? Zvonko was definitely determined not to become a lawyer again, and I, without any specialized profession was not prepared for office work, to be a sales lady or something similar. Thus, the grove was and remained our main source of income. I remember Dr. Neuberger asking me during one of his early visits to Haifa why I was so unhappy in Israel; he could not understand my attitude, we were quite well off. Later I realized how right he had been; we had a normal, healthy child, a nice apartment, good friends, a satisfactory income, enough money to make excursions and to travel abroad from time to time, to buy a car, in brief, a living standard suited to our needs and desires. For a few years we had a pleasant occupation, a hobby that brought us an extra income. I had brought from New York a present, a little silhouette cut out of wood in the shape of a doll with an apron at the middle and on both sides two small pieces of cloth hanging on two hooks, used for holding hot dishes in the kitchen to prevent burning one's fingers. It was decorative and at the same time usefull. Zvonko had the idea of imitating the silhouette with his handsaw. He succeeded so well that there was no difference between the original and the imitation and thus our business started. We engaged a person to sew the pieces of cloth. I was the agent and went to various stores to offer the merchandise, while Zvonko stayed at home cutting and coloring the silhouettes. In a short while we had so many orders that we could hardly supply our clients on time, not only in Haifa but in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem where I had also introduced the novelty. Almost every kitchen in Israel had this little cute thing hanging on the wall, so fashionable it became. Zvonko bought an electric saw by which the capacity of production doubled; the small home-made paper boxes were tastefully arranged, ready for sale. These boxes seemed machine-made but in fact they were the product of Zvonko's outstanding talent and dexterity. To make them prettier he cut out, on the top of each box, a little window-like hole where we inserted a suitable transparent paper, cellophane, through which the silhouette could be seen. It all became a serious business matter mingled with great fun, especially when Zvonko started to cut different figures, mostly from Disney world and fairy tales. At the beginning those were mainly meant to decorate Danny's room, later we sold them at the request of people, but this was on a much smaller scale, only among those whom we knew privately. I participated very actively in this production, choosing the motifs, coloring the wood, decorating Danny's room. But of course, the main producer was Zvonko in whose hands each figure became a little piece of art. We abandoned the business after several years because others started to imitate us and we were not willing to start competing; besides we were tired of doing the same thing all the time. My occupations varied; for one period I studied Hebrew intensively when Danny was in kindergarten. I used to sit for hours, copying, learning words by heart, grammar and spelling, Zvonko leamed Hebrew in an Ulpan in Bat Galim. One year I went to an architect's office and learned building design. One summer I went to a course for English teachers, one month in Haifa, one in England, and there prepared myself for teaching English in a school, which I began but only for one term because I was not able to keep discipline in my classes. The Inspector for English of the Northem District, Dr. Steiner, favored me and assigned me to the nearest school, in Tchernikovsky Street, but it didn't work. The headmaster was very disappointed and asked me to try another term, but I felt that teaching in school was not for me. The following two years I gave private lessons which was much easier. Zvonko met a colleague, a lawyer named Dr Hollander who needed profes- sional help for his clients from Yugoslavia claiming Lastenausgleich - restitutions - from Germany, for lost property, apartments, businesses, etc. On a forty per cent basis Zvonko worked with Dr. Holl„nder for ten years until all claims were settled upon which depended the terms the Germans set for the appeals. Although we had always sufficient means to live decently, the personal restitution we received from Germany added a great deal to our well being. First we received restitution money for lost health, Gesundheitsschaden, it 1970; a few years later, in 1980, Zvonko received the Social Insurance restitution money for his working for years as a lawyer, the Sozialversicherungsrente. With the first payment from my restitution money we bought a grove in Yaarot Hacarmel, in memory of my unforgettable parents and dearest sister. Paradoxical as it might appear, with all the troubles and worries around us and in which everybody living in this country is involved nolens volens, we lived a more or less peaceful and comforable life. The times when Danny was in the army or in the Yom Kippur war were less enjoyable though; but we had our reward when he succeeded in his studies or when he chose a pretty girl for his wife. I also would have never imagined that I could once realize my long-forgotten dream of continuing my studies. This was perhaps the most rewarding period of my post-war years. Not so much the diploma (I received the degree of MA in Summer 1974 when I was almost fifty-five) caused me the satisfaction but the study with all the strain of intellectual activity, the fact that I had still enough power of concentration to achieve a goal usually attained by much younger people; last but not least, to strive for knowledge for the sake of knowledge. In the short introduction I mentioned the main purpose for my writing these memoirs although this would have been evident without my remark. Intentionally I shortened the rest, not so much the war years as the account of our life in Israel, mainly because we are a family without any particular distinction, a family that, like many others, after infinite suffering have tried to make the best of life, and it seems to me that we were lucky enough to attain this aim. I invite Danny and Haya to carry on the job for your children. However, I cannot conclude my story without mentioning that I was in continuous contact with Fritzel's parents. Like the majority of Jews they also wanted to leave Yugoslavia when the first Aliah was announced but they felt an obligation towards Mara's niece, her brothers daughter. Eva's mother was a Catholic, she died when Eva was at the age of four and her last wish was to have Eva raised in her religion. The father was killed by the Nazis; thus the Brichtas adopted Eva and stayed in Zagreb. As I have said we were in constant communication, often exchanging letters. I was their guest when I visited Yugoslavia and they stayed three months with us in Haifa, and had they possessed a daughter they could not have imagined a better son-in-law than Zvonko. I am glad that I remained so close to people who were the remnants of my past happiness. Table of Contents Acknowledgments