The Holocaust Survivor Memoirs Program

Ann Szedlecki

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Born
July 13, 1925 Lodz, Poland

Map of Mukacevo, Czechoslovakia

Immigrated
1953 Toronto, Ontario

Ann Szedlecki was a Hollywood-film-loving fourteen-year-old when the Nazis invaded Poland in 1939 and she fled to the Soviet Union with her older brother, hoping to return for the rest of her family later. Instead, she ended up spending most of the next six and a half years alone in the Soviet Union, enduring the harsh conditions of northern Siberia under Stalin’s Communist regime. Szedlecki’s beautifully written story, which lovingly reconstructs her pre-war childhood in Lodz, is also compelling for its candour about her experiences as a woman in the Soviet Union during World War II. As a very young woman without family, living largely by her wits, she was only too aware of her own vulnerability, and she met every challenge with a fierce determination to survive.

About Ann

Ann Szedlecki was born Chana Frajlich in Lodz, Poland in 1925. After the war, she returned to Lodz to find that every member of her family had perished. In 1950, she married and immigrated to Israel and then, in 1953, to Toronto. Ann Szedlecki passed away in 2005.

Photos and Artifacts

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    The last photograph, taken in Bolimów, Poland, that Ann received from her family in the Warsaw ghetto. Left to right: Ann’s father, Shimshon Frajlich; Ann’s mother, Liba Bayla Frajlich, holding her granddaughter, Miriam; Ann’s sister, Manya; and her two aunts, Tauba and Sarah.

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    Ann’s re-issued birth certificate. Lodz, Poland, 1951.

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    The street sign for Stary Rynek, the street where Ann was born.

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    A modern photograph of the courtyard at Stary Rynek No. 1, where Ann’s family was living when she was born in 1925.

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    The street sign for Podrzeczna, where Ann’s family moved in 1935.

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    A modern photograph of the tenement that was Podrzeczna No. 12 when Ann lived there as a child in Lodz, Poland.

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    A modern photograph of the bandstand in Helenów Park, Lodz, where young Ann attended summer concerts.

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    A modern photograph of Public School No. 132 for Jewish Girls in Lodz, where Ann studied at age seven.

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    Ann when she was living in Siberia during the war.

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    Gienia Kaliner, Ann's roommate in Ridder/Leninogorsk.

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    Pesach Kaliner (brother of Gienia Kaliner, Ann's roommate in Ridder/Leninogorsk).

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    A modern photograph of the house where Ann lived when she returned to Lodz after the war.

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    The sheared off wall where Ann's family’s apartment building had stood on Polnocna before the war. This is what Ann found when she returned to Lodz in 1946.

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    Ann with her husband, Abraham Szedlecki, in Lodz, circa 1947.

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    Ann. Poland, circa 1949.

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    Ann on a visit to Israel in 1984.

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    Ann (left) with Gienia Kaliner Fogelbaum, Toronto. Gienia was Ann's roommate in Ridder/Leninogorsk, Kazakhstan.

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    Ann with her granddaughter Miriam, Toronto.

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    Ann in front of exhibit of the Holocaust Education Centre in Toronto.

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    Ann’s daughter, Lynda Kraar (right), with Lynda’s daughters, Miriam (left) and Yona.

The Book

Cover of Album of My Life
2009 Moonbeam Children’s Book Award Gold Medal Winner

Album of My Life

I am the daughter of nobody. I have no sisters. I am nobody’s granddaughter or daughter-in-law, aunt or cousin. Who am I? My past is all gone. It disappeared….

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Album of My Life

When It All Changed

…German troops marched into Lodz on Friday, September 8, 1939. It was a warm, sunny day and Iwalked toward Plac Wolności to watch the arrival of the occupiers. They came on foot and in trucks, looking immaculate in their uniforms, boots shining. Many of them carried flowers from the German population of the city. City Hall and other buildings were decked out with huge flags with swastikas. In other words, the city rolled out the red carpet to welcome the invaders, whom some regarded as liberators. The large German population of the city opened their arms for their brethren, even though the community had lived in Poland for generations. There weren’t many sad faces in the throngs, and there were fewer Jews.

Signs of things to come appeared almost immediately. I witnessed a soldier pulling an elderly Jewish man’s beard and kicking him to the ground because he wasn’t working fast enough to fill the trenches that had been dug only a few days before to stop the German tanks. I remember how enthusiastic and patriotic we had felt when we dug those trenches.

At the end of September,after weeks of siege and relentless bombing, Warsaw capitulated and the triumphant German army occupied the city on October 1, 1939. In the conquered capital city, burned out, demolished buildings bore witness to the results of modern warfare. A beautiful, cultural city was reduced to rubble. Most of Warsaw’s defenders were dead, and while the valiant survivors could resist no longer they were still full of spirit.

My sister’s store faced the Zielong Rynek, the Green Market. On one Sunday soon after the Germans arrived, the stalls in the market were closed and some boys were playing soccer there when a truckwith German soldiers went by. They stopped and joined the boys in the game, which frightened everybody. Another time, when I took my niece for a stroll in the park – this was before the harsh laws banning us from parks were passed – an older soldier next to me started playing with Miriam. With tears in his eyes, he told me that he had left a baby the same age back in Germany. I don’t remember any other demonstrations of kindness. Maybe the same soldier would think nothing of bashing a Jewish baby’s head against a wall to kill it. These examples are just too minor when you consider what was about to happen to us.

Before long, all kinds of decrees and restrictions started appearing, each one more dehumanizing than the last.There were so many of them that it’s hard to remember them all, although a few stand out in my memory. No Jews were allowed to attend school or institutes of higher learning, regardless of age, which brought my formal education to an end at fourteen. We were banned from using public transportation and from entering any park, theatre or cinema. A curfew was imposed from seven at night until seven in the morning. We had to get off the sidewalk when a German soldier approached. Most shameful of all, we had to wear an armband as a sign of our Jewish identity on our sleeves. Disobeying this rule was punishable by death.