Survivor STORY

Janina (Shanka) Wiesen Redfield (Lipowicz) grew up in Boryslaw, Poland. Her father, Israel, worked in the petroleum industry, which was the major industry in the area. After the German occupation in 1941, the Wiesen family was forced to move into the Boryslaw ghetto, and Janina and her brother, Sigmund, were soon drafted for slave labor in the Boryslaw labor camp nearby. Janina's husband, Fred Jolles, was murdered in one of the first aktions in the labor camp. After Janina found out that her parents and her brother had also been murdered or deported during an aktion, she escaped from the labor camp and survived the rest of the war in hiding first in the forest and later in a small "grave" dug in a garden next to the home of a righteous gentile. Janina was liberated by the Russian Army.

After liberation, Janina met her second husband, Isaac Lipowicz, a photographer, with whom she escaped to Austria. After living in a Displaced Persons camp wiating for permission to emigrate, Janina and Isaac were able to come to America, where they built a new life in New Jersey. Janina moved to Atlanta in order to be near her daughter and her family.

Leaving Europe

When the war was over, do you remember how you reacted to that? What did you think of your future?
Nothing. Nothing. Nothing. From one day to the next, until everybody has decided to leave. No one wanted to stay there. So everybody was going to the western part of Poland. We went to Breslau. Other people went to other cities. And from there, just nothing. I mean, you couldn't make any plans. Yes, you see I remembered one thing, I remember my father had a brother in Los Angeles. That's all I remember. And he left Poland when I was ten years old. And when I was in the D.P. camp, I wrote a letter. I had to; I wanted to come to United States. All I remember is Los Angeles. And I wrote a letter and they received the letter. Would you believe that?

Coming to America

We came, OK, she, she made a mistake. We wrote her that we're going to arrive on a certain day. The trip was awful, because I was very, very sick. From the very beginning, the minute we left Europe, the channel, you know, until I saw the Statue of Liberty, OK? And it took ten days. There was a big storm, and it was an army, General Hahn, ship. And when we came, she thought we are going to come the next day, so she didn't come. We didn't come to Ellis Island. We came to the port, just in New York. Then we were told to go to New Jersey on the Hudson tube. That's the train from, you are familiar maybe? No. There's a train from New York to New Jersey. And we, oh, it was so wonderful. They told us where to go, and on the train someone spoke Yiddish, and they told us where to go to, how to go to Newark. Oh, they are happy memories.


First of all, my children are very grateful, in spite of the fact that we were very overprotective and always bothering them. They couldn't do things like other people were doing. We were always, couldn't help it, if there was a celebration we couldn't enjoy it. She was always asking my husband, "Daddy, why don't you smile once in awhile?"

We were broken. We were broken, both of us. Even though I was younger, still, but it was very difficult to pick up the pieces. Very. And if, thank God for the children. We wouldn't have the children, I don't know. Yes, my daughter still tells me, "Oh," you know, "look, you have friends. Look, they are going, they are doing, this." We have no interest whatsoever in anything.

During the war, I'll tell you, there were times that I said, "Why can't I be a dog, a cat, an animal, or something, but just not a person, not a Jew?" That's how I felt. They robbed us of everything you felt about yourself. Nothing. You are nothing. After the war, just surviving, and the children. The children, I don't know, that was the main thing for both of us, my husband and myself. When they left, we were lost, we were absolutely lost. I keep telling my daughter, "You know, your children will leave someday too. Make just the two of you. It's the most important thing, to go on." And we were lost, my husband and I.

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Janina Redfield