Grandfather was a building contractor performing the masonry work on residential and commercial structures. He had a good reputation in Verecky as well as all through the neighboring towns. His expertise, honesty and reliability were well known and appreciated. He was therefore kept busy enough to necessitate the hiring of employees to help with the work. As a result he did quite well as long as he was physically able to ply his trade.

My life at the grandparents' was pleasant and comfortable. The environment I was growing up in was a warm and loving one. Grandfather had a beautiful luminous face, radiating kindness.

He was a man of few words. While he never said he loved me I knew that he did. He proved it by actions and I loved that man and still do the memory of him. Every time he returned from working out of town he brought me presents. Whenever he traveled to Mukatchevo to visit his daughter Dachel as well as the rabbi whose disciple he was, he took me along. I vividly recall the scene when after I saw a neighborhood boy playing with a crudely made toy violin, consisting of a small board with wires for strings, I came home crying. He promptly went outside got hold of a hatchet and a log and carved out a violin that looked exactly like the genuine article. The only time I saw him cry was when I was ready to leave for the labor camps and said good-bye to

him. That was the last time I saw him. He passed away, I believe, in 1943 and so was spared the humiliation of being shipped by the nazis to a concentration camp to be gassed there, being the only one in my family to cheat the hangman.

Grandmother was a paragon of kindness, an excellent story teller and very affectionate. She used to sit with me on the top of the warm stove on Saturday afternoons and would regale me with fascinating stories about certain events of World War I when Verecky had been a battle ground between the Russian, German., Austrian and Hungarian armies. That picture is still vivid in my memory. She was highly revered by the peasant women of Verecky and surroundings for her wisdom and compassion and so was turned to for advice and settling of disputes. She was however a sickly woman, suffering from a liver ailment, and because of this she passed away when I was about eleven years old. It was my first experience with death. I was by her bedside, watching her as she was gasping for breath and after a few moments she turned on her side towards the wall and expired. That was the first trauma of my life. It dealt a cruel blow to Grandfather as he had shared with Grandmother a life of absolute harmony. I watched as he paced the floor like a caged lion, his face white as chalk. 

After this event aunt Sarah became my surrogate mother. As Grandfather was busy working, she assumed the sole responsibility for my upbringing. She was about ten or eleven years my senior and treated me as if I were her own child. She was my ally. In any dispute I had with Grandfather she was invariably on my side. Grandfather, being very orthodox would have wanted me to follow in his footsteps, thus he didn't look with equanimity on my reading secular literature. Sarah on the other hand introduced me to the literature by reading to me at bedtime, thereby instilling in me a passion for reading. When Grandfather saw that he couldn't win, as there were two against one, he simply resigned himself to the inevitable. He knew when to let go.

While in school I became active in sports such as soccer and volleyball in summer and skiing in winter. Of course, Grandfather frowned on this from a religious as well as safety point of view. This just wasn't proper for a nice Jewish boy. Sarah however encouraged me. She also encouraged me in and sometimes helped me with my homework. At the end of each school year, we would go with our teachers on an excursion up the mountains, either for one or two days. One time when ready for a two day hike, I was totally broke, without a penny to my name. Grandfather viewing this as an unnecessary frill, withheld funds. In that way he hoped I would stay home. I however was determined not to be deterred by the lack of funds and as I was ready to leave, Sarah pulled me aside and pushed money in my hands. I remember that scene as if it happened yesterday.

I had a normal childhood, underwent most of the childhood diseases of those times and sustained all the scrapes, scratches and bruises children normally do. We didn't have the profusion of toys children have nowadays, yet we had fun playing mostly outdoors and running most of the time. Child abduction or sexual molestation was unheard of in Verecky so that we had absolute freedom. As there was practically no vehicular traffic, the streets belonged to us. Of course, injuries from falling were not uncommon but that didn't deter us. I must have been five when, while playing tag on a bridge, I was pushed and fell into the creek onto broken glass and all kinds of junk. Mother told me that I was unconscious for several days and was almost given up for dead. It was a miracle that I recovered. It was the daughter of the ritual slaughterer - who witnessed my fall -that picked me up and carried me home. I can imagine the anguish I caused my parents.

At age five I was enrolled into Hebrew school and at six into public (Czech) school. I had eight years of both. The hours in public school were eight to four with a one hour lunch break from twelve to one, and Hebrew school was from six to seven in the morning and four-thirty to six PM. Saturdays, Sundays and holidays were free and we had a two month break in both Hebrew and public schools. While learning to read and write, and studying the Pentateuch I enjoyed Hebrew school. Learning the history of the Jewish people, their trials and tribulations from the patriarchs through their traumatic experience in ancient Egypt, their wandering in the desert, their conquest of the promised land, the triumphs in battles, the defeats, the kings, the prophets and finally the exile into the Diaspora, all that was fascinating to me. Later on when we began the study of all the tangled, knotty rules and commandments, that was when I got turned off.

Public school I liked from beginning to end. There, whole new horizons opened up before me. Our teachers were dedicated professionals whose way of presentation made the subjects interesting and stimulating. They made learning an enjoyable experience and that was

why most of us excelled.

March the seventh was our president Masaryk's birthday, in celebration of which our school always presented a stage show. One time five of us were picked to represent the five provinces of the country .Each of us was to do a recitation of homage to the president. My assignment was to represent Sub-Carpathian Ruthenia. As we were required to be dressed in the region's national costumes, I borrowed an embroidered shirt, made of coarse material, from the son of the village elder, a well to do farmer whose family was well respected and noted for cleanliness. I was O.K. outside where it was cool, but once on the warm stage and starting my recital, the lice began to crawl allover me. It took superhuman fortitude to proceed with my task. As soon as I was through, without waiting for the end of the performance, I rushed home impelled by the lice, completely disrobed and boiled all my clothing., The next day the teacher asked why I was so red in the face and why I was so loud on the stage.

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Boris Segelstein