Survivor STORY

Lola Ajlen grew up in Pabianice, Poland. In 1939, after the Nazi invasion of Poland, Lola, her sister and her father were taken as slave laborers to Germany. Lola was taken to Sprewald, where she was a farm laborer and forced to sleep in a chicken coop. She was put into a prison several times, and once spent two weeks punished by having to stand in water.

After liberation, Lola walked all the way back to Poland, finally reaching her family's home, which had been damaged during the war. Lola finished high school by completing two grade levels in one year and then found a job. Due to the poor economic condition in Pabianice, the family moved to Bilawa to try to improve their quality of life. The family found jobs in a factory in which her father was offered a position as supervisor. Lola met her future husband, Henry Ajlen, who was working in a nearby factory. After they were married in 1947, the Ajlens moved to Zhary, where the couple's four children were born. Henry and Lola applied to emigrate to America in 1950, but were not allowed to leave Poland. In 1969, the Polish government loosened the vise on those Jews who wanted to leave the country, and the Ajlen family once again applied for visas. The family went to Vienna and then to Rome while waiting for the paperwork to be finalized. In 1970, the Ajlens finally arrived in America.

The family settled down in Pittsburgh. Henry had severe health problems and was hospitalized for several months after their arrival. Lola found work in a factory and also cleaned houses. Henry and Lola moved to Atlanta after seven years in Pittsburgh to be near their daughter, Halina and her family.
Life and Survival in Europe

And everybody came there and we stay and waiting for the result. Who will come, Russian or American? We don't know who will come to us. Finally, she try, my lady from my house, she try to kill all of us. She prepare poison food for everybody. She cook something in a jar with, like, potatoes, something like this in a jar. And she brought me the stuff. And she came to us and I was hiding up there in somewhere, some storage or something. And they call me, "Lola, Lola, your owner come here." I said, "Oh, I'm surprise." She said, "Lola, yeah, I brought you some food." I said, "Food?" Something like hit me, you know, because all the time, all the years I was there she never feed me and now she came with the food to me. I was really surprise. But I know something, because I always listen my father. He said, "Lola, when you don't understand something, let them repeat, and that time you can concentrate, and you can pick up your words what you want to say." And I said, "What is it? What is it?" And she said, "Lola, I brought you some food." And that time like something hit me in my head. I said, "Oh ho, now I have warning from my father." And I came down from the stairs down and she stay with a big apron on the front with full glass jars food. And she came and she said, "Lola, I brought food for everybody." And I said, "Ok, ok, Mrs. Klau, ok." And I took her finger from the apron and all the glasses fall down on the concrete. And all, and everybody jump on me, they said, "Lola, she brought us so many food, so much food, and you throw it away." I said, "You will see after few minutes. This is poison." And was really poison. I said, "If this is poison, after few minutes will be green." And was really poison. She came she want to poison us everybody. But I was smarter. I was younger over there from all the people. We have eighteen people over there and I was the youngest and the smartest.

Making a Living

What were the early days in America like as you...?
Hard, hard. My husband came very sick because all the veins, problem in his legs. And he went straight to hospital after we came. And I have only one month I have the food stamps. And Jewish Federation was helping me find house. And they said, "You can not have a apartment, expensive, because you will be only one, will work." With no language, nothing. I working in Iron City, this was factory, very hard work. My husband was sick in hospital maybe two, three months. And was only me who was working from the family.

Learning English

They friendly people, they was helping me. I don't want to really. I found Polish people and Jewish people over there who spoke very good Polish. They want to be close to me, but I don't want to be, because I want to speak English and they talked to me Polish make easier for me. I feel good when I spoke to them Polish, but was bad for me because the process was longer. I say, "Please stay away from me. I want to speak English!"

Life Lessons and Perspectives

You know, I think my body, my body can suffer more like used to be. Like another person can do, you know, because I suffer over the war time, and after war very much. Very much. And I survive. I think I am big survivor. I count myself like this. I am big survivor, with big experience, with big suffering. I am still here.

Lola Ajlen