NEEDLE IN A HAYSTACK
(The Paula Agauas Story)
The question might exist in the minds of men: Why hasn't this been written before? World War II has been over since 1945. On second thought, many books have already been written about Hitler's diabolical accomplishments. Why write another?
Yes, these thoughts are justifiable, but let me ask you just one question: How many of you have heard or read about "God's keeping power" during those years of unspeakable horror?
With God's help, I will endeavor to tell you about "God's keeping power," as I describe the many times He kept me and saved me from death through His infinite wisdom. I know assuredly that He can and will bring everything to my remembrance about how He revealed Himself to me and the family He has given me. To Him be all the glory!
It is Yom Kippur, the Jewish Day of Atonement. My mind goes back to Friday, September 23, 1949, when I arrived in New York, (U.S.A.), from Munich, Germany. I stayed in New York until after the Jewish holidays, when my Social Worker prepared me for the train journey to Detroit, Michigan.
Because I was unable to speak English, I was pinned with an identification tag. People on the train looked at the tag and began speaking in sign language to me, and fortunately we understood one another! I arrived in Detroit early in the morning and was met by another Social Worker, who had been sent a picture of me, so she could recognize me.
Since I had been born on August 20, 1933, I was 16 years of age at the beginning of my life in Detroit. I found myself going to school with children in a situation similar to mine: they also did not know a word of English. This class was called "The Americanization Class." The teacher was the most loving person I had ever met. I had no problem understanding her, for she communicated with a heart full of love. With this rare ability, she taught the English language to us. It didn't take long before I learned English well enough to be placed in the ninth grade, with all the other American children. I began dressing like them, and for the first time started living as a normal child.
Now with the Lord's help, I shall try to explain how all these circumstances came about. I was born in Poland into a Jewish Orthodox home, the youngest of six children. We were four girls and two boys: Frieda, Ann, Genis, Pola (which is my name), and our brothers Joseph and David. My father went to the synagogue on Friday evenings and Saturdays and also said his daily prayers at home. He and his many brothers were excellent tailors, and in this way earned their living.
Since I, Pola, was the youngest, no doubt I was spoiled, for I remember crying a lot if I didn't get my own way. However, my father did use his belt on me, but it didn't help, for I continued crying into the night. Nevertheless, I loved my father very much. He would have my brother Joseph and me sit down with him and repeat after him our daily prayers.
"The dead will come back to life again"
On Saturday afternoons, my father would take us for a walk. Because Saturday was the Sabbath, he always dressed in his best black coat and hat. His long beard added to his striking appearance. We also dressed in our best clothes. One particular walk he took us on was around a cemetery, and he made this statement, which I've never forgotten: "You see these graves? When the Messiah shall come - the trumpet will blow, and the dead will come to life again." Though I was only a little girl, about three years old, my father's words fascinated me. With the faith of a child, it was as if I could actually see this taking place, right then and there!
We lived in a small village, surrounded by others like it, somewhat like the suburbs we have here. As one entered the village, the first thing that came into view was a big house, comparable to a co-op. This house belonged to my uncles and to us. My grandparents and great grandparents lived there. More people lived in the house in the summertime, for beautiful trees and mountains surrounded it, and some of the family from the city came there to rest.
One night I was awakened by everyone in the family yelling, "Fire! Fire! Let's get out!"
Someone had set fire to our chicken coops. Apparently, this was not the first of such incidents. Our Polish neighbors wanted us out of there, for we were supposed to be the "Christ killers!" I never really could understand this accusation. Quite often, when any of our family took a walk, children who claimed we had "killed Jesus" threw stones at us. I often asked my father why they did this, but I don't remember his reply. However, it must have become too dangerous to live there, for my father moved the family to the city, which was named Siedlce. Insofar as I can remember, we had no such problems there.
Thus far, I've told about my father, but nothing about my mother. My memory is of my three sisters raising me. I was told that mother got sick after having her fifth child, and was no longer able to take care of her family. My older brother, Joseph, whom I loved deeply, played with me all the time. I remember how good-looking he was, for he resembled our mother, who was beautiful. I can still see her black hair and light complexion, but most of all - her lovely hands. My oldest sister also looked like mother, while my other two sisters and my brother David looked more like father. We were a close-knit family. My cousins were like brothers and sisters to us.
One day, while I was alone, I heard sirens. Suddenly, a bomb fell on one corner of the house! I was thrown up to the ceiling and back down again! This must have been the first day Germany invaded Poland.
After everything quieted down, the family came home. They'd had to take refuge in the bomb shelters. When they saw what happened to our house, for reasons of safety, we moved to my aunt's house, just outside the city. When the bombs came down, we had to run to the forest and get under cover.
My brother and my cousins and I had lots of fun after things quieted down. We liked looking into the deep holes the bombs had made. But this fun didn't last very long, for we did eventually move back to our family home. After we got back to our house, thankfully our so-called "good neighbors no longer bothered us," but it took no time at all before we were greatly bothered by the German soldiers!
I clearly recall the first incident. Two German soldiers brought my brother David home. They pinned him into a corner of the house and began beating him. Finally, they left. After that, we were all required to wear bands with a yellow Star of David on our arms, so that everyone would know we were Jews. After they tagged us like this, they ordered us to move back to the city. Then the Germans divided the city by putting barbed wire around one section and all the Jews were moved into it.
Of course, we had no house in this section. Consequently, we had no choice but to move in with an aunt and her large family, all of us in a one-room apartment! While I can't remember the exact size of the room, the living conditions were not very comfortable, with that many people in it. On one side of the room were three sections of beds, one on top of another. My aunt was in her single bed and all the rest were on the floor. In the middle of the room was a table. On the other side of the table was the kitchen, with a small pot of something cooking on the stove, and an area for a few groceries.
The machine guns opened fire
Once we were enclosed behind barbed wired in this section of the city, in this "Ghetto", the only ones allowed to leave were Gentile Poles, or young men able to work, or for certain other reasons. One of the "other reasons" was when one of my cousins was taken to jail without just cause. My aunt had me take some food to her son in jail because I looked like a Gentile Pole. My hair was white as snow and I spoke perfect Polish. It felt so good walking down there as a Gentile Pole, unafraid of being recognized, I was able to take the food to my cousin without any trouble. He told me to tell his parents that he'd be home the following day, but he never got to see that day. That very night the Germans told all the Jewish young men in his cell that they were being taken in a truck to a working camp. As they were being driven, the truck stopped and they were told to get out. Then the machine guns opened fire ... one might ask how I knew all this. I was sent back with more food after my cousin did not come home, but he was not in the jail. When I asked one of the guards what had happened, he told me the story. I quickly went home and told my family.
After that incident, my aunt seemed to be in bed a lot. She often asked me if I had eaten, and everyone in the room did the same. There was so little food - they gave their food to me, because I was the youngest. My aunt was dying of hunger. When I went to her bed one morning, she opened her eyes, smiled, and asked me if I had eaten. Then she closed her eyes for the last time. The family had to take her body out, for she was dead.
After that, my sister Ann, the second oldest, became very sick with typhoid fever. In her delirium, she took a knife and tried to stab me, but everyone in the room grabbed her and tied her to the bed. She accused me of eating up all the food. Thankfully, she did recover, but she had no remembrance whatsoever of the incident.
Because food was so scarce, my three remaining brothers and two sisters left the house one by one, and managed to escape from behind the barbed wire. Frieda, my oldest sister, was the only one who was married. She and her husband lived in the infamous Warsaw Ghetto, where they and so many others ended up in the gas chambers, or in the fire, when at the end the Germans set the Warsaw Ghetto up in flames, with all the remaining Jews still inside.
After the others escaped, my mother and I were left alone with my cousins. One day, when I went out to play, I happened to see an opening in the barbed wire, so I went across. As I did that, my mother came out screaming, "Come back! Come back! Come back!"
All of a sudden I saw Germans running and shooting and I started to run away! But when my mother tried to stop me from running, she was shot dead between the barbed wire. The Gestapo did not even see me. They saw only my mother, when she was screaming for me. Now that I'm a mother myself, I know I would have done the same thing. Only a mother knows a mother's heart.
Seeing what had happened, I ran into the forest (Poland has many forests), and there I ran into my father and my brother Joseph. I told them what had taken place. They took me to where they were hiding out with other Jews.
There was a family there with a little girl, who looked like a pretty doll, but she cried a lot, probably from hunger, or any number of things. So her mother, fearful that the noise of the crying child might jeopardize the lives of the others called the Gentile Polish man who was hiding us out. She told him to take this little doll of a girl and put her in the barn, where she would freeze to death. "Now where was this mother's heart?" one might ask. But who can judge anyone else under such trying circumstances as these? Perhaps the mother knew her daughter was dying anyway. Or possibly the mother should be commended for sacrificing her child for the sake of the others. After all, God sacrificed His own Son for the sake of the world.
Even so, after awhile we all had to split up. The Gentile Polish family was afraid to keep us any longer and told us to leave. We had no choice but to go. They would have suffered greatly and probably been killed had they been caught hiding us. Everyone went in different directions. Father told us, "Let the five of us, Joseph, Ann, Genis, Pola, and I stay together, and we will go to the village where this widow woman lives alone with her children. I am sure God has prepared this other Gentile Polish family to help us. I left some things with her for safekeeping. I will let her keep it as payment for all I hope she will do for us."
We went there and father was right, she did take us in. She also had living with her a Russian soldier that had parachuted into Poland. He too was hiding from the Germans, but the villagers let him alone for he was a great help to the widow woman, and he became a help to us in many ways. When the widow became fearful of keeping us, for her life was greatly endangered, the Russian was the one who comforted her. He also made sure she cooked enough food for all of us, and then he'd bring it to us in the barn where we were hiding. Sometimes he was the lookout man, so we could come into the house and eat. This was a real treat to us.
One day while we were in the house, somehow the villagers found out we were there and came after us with destructive weapons, like clubs and potato choppers that were used to chop potatoes for the pigs! These same villagers were at one time supposedly my father's best friends, yet they turned on us as quickly and as easily as if they had been our lifelong enemies. Among the things father had left with the widow woman was his sewing machine. Before the villagers had a chance to get into the house, father said to us, "Quickly, hide behind the large stove!"
Then the children of the Gentile Polish family hiding us got on the bed and started jumping up and down on it and singing, while my father sat behind his sewing machine and began to sew. He was trying to make it look as if he were the only other one there, in order to try to save us. The villagers came in, full force, demanding to know where my father's children were. The brave children jumping on the bed told them we were not there. The villagers grabbed my father and savagely started beating him with the clubs and chopping him with the potato chopper! When I saw this, I opened my mouth to scream, but my brother and my sisters held my mouth so I couldn't let out a sound. Father moaned in agony, but somehow he prevented himself from crying out. Finally, they stopped beating him, gave him up for dead and left. But I refused to believe he was not alive. I tried hard to listen, hoping I could still hear him breathing.
At last we were able to come out from behind the stove and rushed over to father. He was full of holes and bleeding all over, but thank God he was still alive! The widow woman helped us all out of the house to the barn, where we managed to put father on the hay. Then she got some iodine and tended to father's wounds. However, after she took care of him, she said to him, "When you are well enough, I want you to take Joseph and Pola out of here. As you can see, it is not safe for all of you to stay in one place. But I will help your two daughters, Ann and Genis, to make out some working papers for Germany. I am sure they will be able to pass as Gentile Polish girls, for they are light complexioned. The German government is taking Polish girls to Germany to work in different places of employment."
When my father was well enough to walk, he took my brother Joseph and me away from the widow woman's house. The three of us moved only by night and hid in barn lofts. These lofts were so dark and frightening that I wished myself to be a cow, or a horse, or a bird, anything except a human being. I felt that if I were an animal I would be able to see the daylight and not be afraid. As soon as it became dark enough, so we couldn't be seen, we moved from place to place. Oh, how I longed to lie down on a nice, soft bed and go to sleep, but the only bed I knew was hay, which was at least warm.
A bed of hay
One day, as we were hiding in a barn, and father was praying on one side of the barn, I became very tired and wanted so badly to go to sleep, but could not see a place where I might lie down. It was during the winter months and terribly cold. I happened to look across to the opposite side from where my father was praying and there it was - my warm bed of hay! I ran to it and, without telling my father where I was, dug myself into the hay and immediately fell asleep.
I remember my brother Joseph, out of breath, waking me up and saying, "I just came back to see if you were alive. Father had said to me that it was no use, that you were dead, but I refused to listen to him and had to see for myself. You see, the Germans somehow spotted us and started shooting and beating on the door. We had no time to wake you, but had to run. After we were a distance away, I decided to come after you. Come, let's go to father. I'm sure when he sees you - he will look at you as if you are a ghost!"
After what Joseph said, I knew I had to get out of there quickly and be reunited with father. When we got there, Joseph said to him, "See, father, I was right, she IS alive!" Father was the one who looked like a ghost, for he was very pale as he hugged me and cried, "Thank God you are alive!"
I was very hungry and asked him if I could have something to eat. Father answered, "Let's go to our old neighbors, surely they will give us some food."
These neighbors that my father had grown up with told us to go into the barn, where they would bring us some hot food. But instead of food, these so-called "good neighbors" brought clubs and other weapons, with the intention of killing us! When father spotted them, he told us to run after him! We ran and ran! I, being so little, was the last one, but they did not catch up with us. When we stopped running, we forgot about the hunger and found a place to sleep in some other deserted barn.
We had to move on in order to try to find some food. My trusting father said, "I know a family that will help us. They need me to do some sewing for the family. Let's go there." So that is where we went and they did accept us, giving us some hot food to eat, and father did some sewing for them.
We were there for a week when a group of father's "friends" came in and took my father and brother away. I was just sitting there with everyone else in the room, not saying a word. However, just as soon as my father and brother were taken out - I had a strong feeling I should get out of there quickly! I ran into the barn right by the house and dug myself into the hay. Just as soon as I did this, the people of the house became hostile and started screaming, "Where is she? We have to get her over there with her father and brother. Let them all be killed together!"
This was the first time I remember feeling truly scared, thinking, "What am I going to do without my father and brother? Where can I go alone?" I escaped such further frightening thoughts by falling asleep.
I was awakened by someone calling my name. The voice sounded like Joseph's. Miraculously, it was indeed Joseph, bleeding all over, but still alive, and saying to me, "We must leave at once. We cannot stay here."
"But we must wait for father," I insisted.
Joseph hung his head sadly as he said, "Father is dead."
"No, no," I argued. "You are here and I thought you too were dead. So let's wait awhile, maybe father will come for us."
Joseph exhausted and bleeding from his severe wounds was almost glad to stop for a rest. We waited and waited. Suddenly we heard something. It was father! To me, he looked like a skeleton, a dead man come to life again. Perhaps the trumpet had blown and he was raised from the dead, to come back and take us away to safety. In these horrible times - could not such wonders also happen?
"I'm go to lie down in the snow and go to sleep"
The three of us walked away from there, into the bitter cold. The snow was so deep in the fields that it came past my knees. Once again I was getting tired and sleepy and said to Joseph, "I'm going to lie down in the snow and go to sleep."
The snow felt nice and soft and warm, but Joseph cried out, "No! Come on, you'll die if you fall asleep!" And he dragged me out of the snow.
But I could hear father ahead of us shouting at Joseph, "Let her stay! Let her stay!"
But Joseph refused to leave me. "No! She's coming with us!" As he pulled me, tears were streaming down his face.
When we got to a safe place, I don't remember where, it was not so cold anymore, even though there were large patches of snow on the ground here and there. This must have been near to spring in 1943. Father had cut off his beard so he would look less conspicuously like a Jew. Nevertheless, in spite of near starvation, he still refused to eat anything out of the pots of Gentiles, because it was against the Jewish religion. He lived on bread and water, and fruit, when we could find any. However, he told us to eat everything, even pork, that it would not be sinful for us, since we were only children.
One day Father heard that in one village a family was hiding out a Jew and were found out by the Germans. The German government had posters hanging all over Poland, ordering the people not to hide Jews. If they were found hiding even one Jew - all of the villagers would be taken to working camps, the children would be taken away from their parents, and the entire village would be burned to the ground. This is exactly what happened to one of the villages and father somehow heard about it. He also heard that as the children were being transported somewhere by train, some of them managed to escape. When Poland was alerted about it, the Polish government issued a statement saying:
"If any children show up in the villages, families are to take them in and keep them until after the war. Maybe some of the parents will live through the war and reclaim their children."
It was becoming impossible for us to go on. Father called Joseph and me to tell us of the situation we were in. He said to me, "Pesia (he called me by my Jewish name), you look like a Polish Gentile. Your hair is white as snow and you speak like any Polish girl. All over Poland it is known about the escaped children. You are going to have a Polish name instead of your own name, Pesia Atramentowicz. Your name will be Apolonia (Pola) Siurek. You'll tell them you had one brother, Joseph, and no sisters or other brothers. That way you will not have to remember any new names, which would have to be Polish. And most of all, Pray to Jesus, and they will believe you are a Polish Gentile. After the war, go to the United States - to Detroit - and your aunt will take you in."
I can remember my brother Joseph crying and saying, "No, father! She can't be left alone - I will take care of her." I cried, telling father I wanted to die with them and not alone. But father said nothing after that.
One morning I awakened to find myself all alone, but then a strange thing happened. I had always had a fear of being left alone, from as far back as I can remember. Yet that morning I was not alone. There was a Presence with me, one that is difficult to explain. I called it "My Guardian Angels." I had no fear whatsoever. I was surrounded by an invisible army.
Then I remembered father also saying, "Maybe your sisters will be able to help you."
Therefore, I thought, "I will go to the place where they are hiding." But I did not know east from west. I needn't have worried, my invisible "Guide" showed me the way. When I knocked at the door, the widow woman opened it and greeted me. I asked her to have my sisters come out, but she said they were not there. I knew better, for my invisible Guide told me differently. I said to the widow woman, "I know they are here." Finally, my sister Ann came out.
I told Ann that father had left me and had told me what I was to do, and perhaps they could help me. My other sister never came out, but I knew she was there. After Ann cleaned me up from all the lice I had collected on the way, she told me to do as father had instructed me. Then she told me to leave. I left, but I said to myself, "I never want to see my sisters again!"
They were afraid of me. If the Germans captured me and tortured me, to find out where they were, I might have given them away. If I did not know where they were - at least they were safer. (Again, no one knows what war can do to a person.) Father did say that I was to walk as far as I could to where people did not know us. So I left my sisters and began walking. As I walked, a couple in a horse and buggy drove by me. They stopped and I heard the woman say, "Is not this girl the daughter of Atramentowicz?" But I continued walking.
Hunger was overcoming me, so I decided to stop when I reached the next village. When I reached the village, I knocked at the door of a house. To the woman who answered I said, "I'm a Jewish girl. My father left me and I'm all alone. Will you please give a piece of bread?" The woman told me to wait, that she'd be right back. But the Voice told me to run, so I ran!
I ran to a haystack, got on top and dug myself into it. No sooner had I managed to do this than the woman brought the Germans with her. The Germans demanded, "Well, where is she?"
The woman answered, "She couldn't have disappeared into thin air!"
Then I heard the Germans say, "We will push our bayonets into the haystack and see if she is hiding in there!"
I thought, "This is the end of me!"
The bayonets kept coming closer and closer. One of them was coming straight at my heart and was just a hair away, when I heard one of them say, "She is not here, you stupid woman!" And the bayonet was pulled out!
Following my "guide"
I lay there for awhile, trying to catch my breath. Then I decided to dig myself out of there. I stuck my head out and lo and behold, it had become so foggy I couldn't see in any direction. I clearly remembered that when I crawled up in the haystack the sky was clear and the sun was out, but not now. This turn of the weather made me unafraid to move out of there, for I would be under cover of the fog. Not knowing which way to go, I followed my Guide's direction and walked on.
Finally, I was nearing another village. This time I thought that I'd better remember what my father had told me to say. As I approached the village, I saw children playing with snowballs. I hadn't played with other kids in such a long time, I decided to run up there! However, before I had a chance to take one step, something physically pushed me to the left, which was the first house of the village. I had no choice but to obey!
I walked into the yard and knocked at the door. A woman answered. Having learned my lesson well from the haystack incident, I remembered to say everything the way my father had told me. There was much explaining I did not have to do, for she had heard about some of the children running away from the train. She told me to come in and called her husband and two of her sons, who were at home. I found out they had two other sons living away from home. The two living at home were farmers; another was an accountant, a widower with a daughter living in Warsaw; and the fourth was a veterinarian, who was married and had a little boy. The woman and her husband had no daughters. They were the wealthiest people in that town and all the villagers worked for them.
After the woman had introduced me to her two sons, the older son said, "We'd better take her over to the sheriff's office and register her." Off we went, with the villagers following us there. It seems that in a small village everyone knows what is going on everywhere else.
The whole village wanted to keep me! The sheriff's wife had never been able to have children, so the sheriff and his wife wanted to keep me for their own. Nevertheless, I was wishing someone would ask me where I wanted to go. Immediately, the sheriff said, "Let's ask the girl where she would like to go!"
I already knew where I was to go and said, "The first house to the left." Who can say that God does not prepare a table in the presence of the enemy? (Ps.23:5) The couple was old enough to be my grandparents. Perhaps that's why on the way from the sheriff's office they told me to call them Grandma and Grandpa. When we arrived home, Grandma said, "This child must be hungry." She cooked some soup and gave it to me. I took one spoon of it, and as soon as I swallowed it my stomach began to hurt. I literally crawled on the floor, because the pain was so bad. Grandma could not have known that my insides had shrunk from my not having eaten in such a long time! When she realized the situation, she massaged my stomach and gave me only tiny bits at a time. Grandma did this for quite a few weeks, until she brought me back to normal again.
Then they enrolled me in school and catechism. This was my very first time in school, yet I was already ten years of age! The school was not in this village, but now that I was stronger - I was able to walk with the other children to the village where the school was. After school, I had chores to do: milk the cows, feed the chickens, and gather the eggs. Since some of my duties included watching over the cows and other animals, I became a real cowgirl. I could even ride a horse bareback to round up the cattle! At harvest time, I had to be an example for the other workers, meaning I had to be the fastest, and I was proud to be such an example. I loved the open spaces, the fresh air, the green grass, the flowers and everything growing in the fields. It was as if I'd been some kind of animal that had been locked up for years in a cage, ready for slaughter, but someone had mercy on it and set it free! After we had finished the catechism studies, the priest brought a basket filled with little cards having pictures of the saints on them. The priest said, "Now close your eyes and put your hands in the basket. Whatever picture you take will be your patron saint." Then I remembered that father had said to me, "Pray to Jesus and they will believe you are Catholic."
I thought, "If I pick the picture of Jesus then I can pray to Him, like father said; but if I pick a saint then I will have to pray to that saint instead." God must have heard my thoughts for He granted my heart's desire! When I put my hand in the basket and picked a card - it was the picture of Jesus with the Bleeding Heart! As I looked at it, these words were impressed in my mind, "Do not be afraid. I have gone through the same thing you are going through. I am a Jew. I have overcome the world and so will you." Yet it seemed as if the only thing I heard was the part about, "I am a Jew." As far as I was concerned, there were no more Jews in the world and I was the only Jew left alive! Often I was full of fear because of this thought, but now I had another Jew, someone to talk to and not just to pray to. It's impossible for me to describe what kind of joy came into my being through this wonderful knowledge! I remember wanting to go to church more often, as if the church were my home. I loved to take Communion. As I partook of the wafers, I actually ate of His Flesh, and with the wine I drank of His Precious Blood. And yet He was so much alive and not dead! I never questioned His being alive. To me He was the other Jew! He filled me with such love for Him that I felt I was being carried in an abundance of love.
He was a Jew like me!
By now, you are acquainted with my using various phrases, such as, "the Guide," and "the Voice," and "the Invisible Presence." When I looked at the picture, I heard the very same Voice of my Guide and my Guardian Angel, and I felt the same loving presence. And yet He was a Jew like me!
The Holy Bible, the Word of God, declares:
shall know the Truth and the Truth shall make you free!"
(Thank God I am free! Free from man's number one enemy, Satan, the enemy of the all-knowing God!)
what person knows a man's thoughts except the spirit of the man
which is in him?"
(1 Corinthians 2:11);
"The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it? I the Lord search the mind and try the heart, to give to every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his doings." (Jeremiah 17:9-10);
one is good but God alone." (Luke 18:19b)
(I have combined various translations of The Holy Bible here.)
Living with a family again and having a roof over my head was a new experience, especially the great change from a strict Orthodox Jewish home to a Roman Catholic home! However, it did not take me long to adjust after what I had been through. No more hiding from place to place trying to escape the hunters, for not only did we have to hide from the Germans, but from the Gentile Poles as well. The Polish hunters received five pounds of sugar for every Jew they turned in. Ferocious wild animals would have been welcomed compared to these vicious human beings!
One evening, as we all sat at dinner, the sons told me what they thought was an exciting story. They were laughing hilariously about it. "Just before you came here, Pola, a Jew came to our village for protection. We gave him protection all right! We tied him to a haystack when the weather was freezing and left him there overnight. Can you guess what happened to him?" They laughed and laughed, and I laughed with them.
They all loved me. Once again I had a family, and they were glad there was a girl in the house. I liked the three older sons, but I certainly did not care for the younger one. He must have been around sixteen or seventeen. When we sat down to eat at the table, each of us had our own silverware, but we didn't have individual plates. Grandma would put one giant bowl, with potatoes, pork and gravy, in the middle of the table, then everyone would dig in. I'd always get sick to my stomach, not because of the food, or because we all ate from the same bowl, but because Stefan had a running nose.
I'd scream, "Grandma! Have Stefan wipe his nose!" But no sooner had he done it - then it started running again. I was losing weight and getting sicker by the day, but they couldn't understand why. Finally, they took me to a doctor. He told Grandma to put me on a special diet. After that, my sickness left me, for I had my own plate!
The Christmas season was very exciting. We did not have store-bought ornaments, such as we have here. We had to make our own. All of us girls would get together in each other's homes to make all kinds of decorations for our Christmas trees. We also made cookies, cutting them into different shapes and sizes, and hung them on the trees. During our festive preparations, we sang beautiful Christmas carols.
When Christmas Eve arrived, all of us went to the church to look at the Baby Jesus. Although eventually I discovered it was only a doll, I had first believed the doll was actually real. It was wonderful to come home from church and eat at midnight. In the morning, we rode in sleds, as the music of the bells attached to the horses rang out! It was all breathtaking for me! I loved to be in church. At that time I was not a Jew. The thought of being a Jew was completely gone from my mind.
One morning, when I awakened, Grandma said to me, "Pola, last night you must have had a nightmare. You screamed and talked in a language that was hard for me to understand."
Somehow I had the presence of mind to say to her, "You know when someone talks in his sleep it is really impossible to understand him."
She responded, with some relief, "So that's why I couldn't understand what you were saying."
"Pray to Jesus and they will believe you are Catholic"
Nonetheless, I knew full well the language in which I had spoken must have been Jewish! After that, I was afraid to go to sleep for fear I might have another nightmare like that and the next time she would find me out! I didn't know what to do. As I lay awake, trying very hard not to fall asleep, I remembered at last what my father had told me: "Pray to Jesus and they will believe you are Catholic."
Therefore, I prayed, "Please, Jesus, make me forget this night the Jewish language, so that when I awake in the morning I will not even remember how to say, 'No' or 'yes' in Jewish. Please, Jesus, for father told me to pray to you." I fell asleep immediately and slept peacefully, after many nights of not being able to sleep. Even so, I still dreamed a lot, for I seemed to relive everything when I slept.
When I awakened the following morning, I was fully aware of the request I had made to Jesus before I had trusted myself to go to sleep. I tried to recall how to say "yes" and "no" in Jewish, but I was unable to do so! I could have jumped to the ceiling from the bed out of pure joy! I screamed, "Jesus! Jesus! You did it! You did it!"
Grandma rushed into the room! She had absolutely no inkling of what was going on. She asked me, "What is happening?"
How glad I was to tell her, "I am happy because last night I prayed to Jesus that I would have no more nightmares - and I didn't! And I had the best night's sleep since I came here!" Grandma was happy with me.
The winter months were exciting, especially in the evening, for the evenings were long. Before it became dark, I cleaned out the kerosene lamps, for the villages had no electricity. The ladies and their daughters would get together in each other's homes with their spinning wheels and spin out the yarn, and then weave the yarn into material. They taught me how to do this and I was getting very good at it. Another thing we would do was to chop cabbage and put it into barrels to make sauerkraut.
When daylight came, Grandma would bring in some fresh water, for the villages had no running water either. Then the boys and Grandma and I would milk the cows. Grandpa was the lazy type. He was always cold, so he sat by the wood burning stove, where the wood burned all night and day to heat the house, and where the cooking was done. This was the only heating unit in the entire house. After the cows were milked, we had to feed them. We also had to feed the pigs, the sheep, the goats, the rabbits, the horses, and the chickens. Only after the animals were fed did the rest of us sit down to eat. Our breakfast in the village was heavy, a farmer's breakfast, consisting of things we eat for supper in this country. After breakfast, I went off to school with a group of other children, all of us trudging through the deep snow.
I had a girlfriend who was especially nice to me. Her name was Angie. Angie was a little older than I, and very protective of me. She was the child of an unwed mother. The mother hardly made ends meet. Since I lived with a family that hired the villagers in that town to work in their fields, I was able to help Angie and her mother get a job working in the fields. They were paid with everything that grew in the fields. Angie and I ate together at lunchtime.
Angie's mother had a hobby telling peoples' fortunes through cards. Some of the things she told people were quite memorable. For instance, one day three men of the village came to her to have their fortunes told. She looked at the cards and told the men, "Tomorrow morning the three of you will be dead!" They walked out, laughing loudly at her. I happened to be there that day and sure enough, in the morning all three men lay dead, just as she had said. I was so used to seeing dead people that I thought nothing of it, particularly after witnessing the following incident, which has never left my mind.
Two Russians had parachuted into our village and were found by the German soldiers. The Germans forced the Russians to dig their own graves deep enough for them to stand in. Then the Germans made the Russians jump in the graves and cover themselves with the same dirt to their armpits. Then the Germans shot the Russians in the head and threw the rest of the dirt over them. The German soldiers placed on top of the graves a marker made out of the dead men's scarves, which they had taken from the necks of the Russians. They took two sticks, stuck them in the graves, and then hung a bloody scarf on each of the sticks. The other children and I quietly watched as all this took place. I could just see myself being in that grave.
Now I must tell you why these two Russians were shot that morning. About two weeks before this took place, during some nights, while the villagers were in deep sleep, the underground movement came into the homes and helped themselves to food and clothing and anything else they needed. One morning I discovered my very best Sunday shoes and dress had been taken from the attic.
One of those nights, a flashlight shining in my face awakened me. I opened my eyes to see the face of my cousin! I started to say something to him, but he put his hand on my mouth and said, "Don't say a word right now. I will see you tomorrow. Look for me. I will be in disguise. I'll probably come when you are out in the pasture with the animals. I'll tell the others not to take anything else from this house, nor will we ever come here again for food."
Our house was never ransacked again
My cousin was true to his word; our home was never ransacked again. I was so excited about seeing him I could not go back to sleep, impatiently waiting for daylight to come so I could ride out to the fields, where the green pastures were. On that day they were greener than ever. (At that time I was a real cowgirl, riding those horses without a saddle! But you couldn't get me on a horse now, even with a saddle!) I looked anxiously down the road to see if anyone was coming. The hours were longer than ever. I could tell time to the minute by the way my shadow went with the sun. Finally he came! What a reunion! He asked me about everything and I told him all I could.
Then he asked me, "How do you like it here? If they don't treat you right - you can come with us and you will be safe. We have all kinds, including Poles, and Russians that have parachuted in. We are fighting this war. There are quite a few from this town that are working with us."
I asked him who they were, but he would not tell me. I told him I'd like to remain where I was, because the people were treating me very well. He said, "Shalom", and left.
After that, I did not see him again until the day the two Russians were shot. He came to see me in the late afternoon and asked me if I had seen or heard about three other men being shot.
I answered, "Yes, I saw those three men lying dead on the street this morning, when we were on our way to school."
Then he told me, "Those three men were part of us and we trusted each other. But they heard me say you were my cousin. I told them where you were staying, so I could instruct them not to come here for anything. They were found out just in time, for they were going to give you up to the Germans. THEREFORE, WE HAD TO TAKE CARE OF THEM THIS MORNING!"
Only then did I realize that those three men lying dead in the road were the three men whose cards Angie's mother had read, and whom she had told they would be dead the following day! What keeping power of God! Although I could not have known it at that time, I certainly know now that it was Jesus Christ, my Lord, who had watched over me and kept me through every danger and crisis those many years.
The winter was soon over and I looked forward to Easter. I loved helping prepare the baskets and color the eggs and neatly put them in the baskets. When Good Friday came, the priest came to the village and everyone came out with their baskets to be sprinkled with holy water. On Easter Sunday morning, we all went to church. I couldn't think of anyone being as devout a Catholic as I! I can't remember how long after we were confirmed that the other children and I went to church to be anointed with oil and given a saintly name by the priest. Since I loved the name of Saint Teresa - the priest named me Teresa.
Seeking to be a "perfect" Catholic
My Jewishness had left me to such a degree that I found myself thinking, "Why, I'm not really a true Catholic, for I'm not baptized!" This really bothered me. One day I decided that I had to confess this to the priest at my next confession. "He will keep it a secret and secretly baptize me, and then I will be a perfect Catholic," I thought.
Finally, one Sunday morning, I said to Angie, "Let's go to confession." Angie agreed, so off we went. Little did she know my true intentions.
We arrived at church early enough for confession. I saw the priest sitting in his booth listening to another confessor. I waited patiently for my turn. As I approached the window of the booth and was just about to begin talking, something made me look toward the main entrance. Lo and behold! I saw there one of my girlfriends with whom I used to play at home! When I recognized her, the fear of her identifying me gripped my heart and caused me to faint! I was awakened by Angie telling me that I had fainted just before confession. When she asked me what happened, I answered weakly, "I truly don't know. We'd better go home." And we did. That same Sunday Grandma went to mass. When she came home, she told us what the priest's main message had been. It went like this: "God was taking vengeance on the Jews for they had killed Jesus, and, therefore, it was God's will that the Jews should be killed!" How do you like that?! No one can ever tell me that the true and living Jesus - the Jew - was not with me! He is not dead, but alive! At that time I never questioned why they said He had been killed by the Jews, and yet He had identified Himself to me as One Who is alive and not dead. I was positive of that, and no one could have been as happy as I was to know that I would not be the only Jew left alive in this world! There was another, and He was Jesus Christ, the Jew!
After that incident, I never again wanted to be baptized. As far as I was concerned, I was a better Catholic than the ones who were sprinkled at infancy, for I knew a personal God of love and protection. I could not go to that priest for protection! Even though he was called "father" by everyone, he was not mv father. I had a better Father, a Father whom I could trust, and one who would never reveal my secrets to the enemy.
The church we attended was situated not too far from the villages where my original family was well known, and often the people who came to this church were unknown to me. After I became aware of this fact, I had no desire to go to that church again, even though it was the most beautiful one in the area and closest to me. My present family, "Grandma", "Grandpa", and the others, could not understand why I had become so set against going to this church, when it was much closer to home than the church I now chose to go to. I told them, "It's much more fun walking to the other one.
Besides, I like the priest better, for he is much nicer." Of course, Angie said the same thing, and she would be the first one of all the other boys and girls to agree with me. Before long - most of the children began going to the church I had chosen over the one closest to home.
Little did I know that Angie and her mother knew about my being a Jew, for they never let on. They were working with the underground movement, "The Resistance." This was told to me after the war through a letter I received in Germany from Angie. She also sent me my Communion dress, but I do not remember what I did with it. In addition, she sent the picture of my first Communion, taken with two other girls, which I still have.
One afternoon, on the way home from school, a woman passed by me. I recognized her and tried to hide my face, but she noticed me and said something to one of the kids, and then she left. I did not think much of it at the time, but a week later she happened to show up at the house. She was invited in by Grandma and given something to eat. Then she asked my name and Grandma told her about me. The woman said, "I come from Shmiary. A family lived there by the name of Atramentovicz, and they had a younger daughter whose name was Pesia. I tell you, Pola, you look just like her. When I saw you walking from school, I recognized you, thinking you were her, so I asked one of the girls where you lived."
I laughed and said, "It is possible she resembled me, but how many cows have you seen that look alike, and though they have the same spots, could you tell them apart?"
She too laughed and said, "That is true." Then she excused herself and left the house.
Grandma remarked, "What a nerve to come here thinking such a thing!"
I laughingly asked her, "What would you do if that were true?"
She replied, "I would do nothing, but the boys would do to you what they did to the Jew: they would tie you to the haystack to be frozen to death, or get five pounds of sugar as a reward for turning you over to the Germans."
It did not take long after this incident until some of the children started calling me "Jew!" It finally came to the point where Grandma called me in and said, "I think you will have to be sent away for a little while to live with my son, the veterinarian, and his family, until this quiets down. It is not right that you should go through such unfair persecution. After it has quieted down - you will come back." I was very happy at this suggestion, for the church I liked was right around the corner from her son's home.
After awhile, I did come back home and all was well. My friends were very happy to see me and called me no more names. Everything seemed to be going all right, or so I thought. Grandma told me that her older son, the accountant from Warsaw, was arriving with a friend of his for the weekend, and we had better clean up the house. When they arrived, we all had dinner together. The friend was left alone with me and began to ask me all kinds of questions. After the questioning was over, he called the family together, saying, "She is not Jewish. I can swear it."
Of course, they were relieved. But little did they know how relieved I was! After that, we were one happy family. So happy, in fact, that Grandma told me that Stefan, her younger son, was going to marry me, when I was old enough. That was all I had to hear - a lifetime with that snotty nose boy, with both of us eating from the same dish! To me this was worse than being found out! I remember always kneeling down by my bed, before going to sleep, and talking to my Jesus, the other Jew. That night I really poured my heart out. I cried and cried. I remember not wanting to live after that. Nevertheless, I got up from my knees and went to sleep peacefully. I awoke the next morning hardly thinking of what Grandma had said to me. I even began liking Stefan with his runny nose, and things got on very well. Then Stefan was drafted into the army. He wrote letters to the family and I was the one who answered them. The other son was always busy in the fields, but I liked him. He took very good care of me, just like an older brother would. Then he got married, and I didn't like him as well, because he seemed to like his wife better than he did me. His actions were beyond my understanding.
One day, some of the neighbors got together and came to the house, demanding that I be taken to the fortuneteller! When Grandma wanted to know why, they told her, "There is a rumor going around that she is Jewish. We've come to take her to the fortuneteller, who will tell us for sure! Her cards will tell the truth! Remember the three men - how they were killed - after the cards showed they would be shot, just as she said. Everything she said so far came true."
Grandma gave in, saying, "Very well, we will do as you say and you will hear for yourselves that all of this is only gossip."
Off we went to the fortuneteller, Angie's mother. When we arrived, she seemed to be prepared for us and already had the cards on the table. This time I was scared, because I knew that everything she said came to pass, and for sure she would see in the cards that I was Jewish! After we sat down, she proceeded to look at the cards and said, "I see this girl as not being too long with us. She is being taken to a faraway country, where she will be safe. And the country she will live in will be very good to her. She is not Jewish, as you have been suspecting, for I do not see it in the cards."
I could hardly contain myself upon hearing her statement. Grandma said, with great satisfaction, "I hope you will leave us alone now that you know the truth!" Then we all left and went home. On the way, I became very tired, and told Grandma I would like to leave home for a little while and stay with her son, the one who lived not very far from my church. At the same time, I'd have a good rest from the people who had put me through all this testing. Grandma agreed and personally took me to her son's house.
The couple had a little boy, who was a real monster! I mean he was really spoiled! One Sunday morning he was helping me peel potatoes, and for some reason - he became very angry with me, and took his knife and purposely cut my hand! He made a deep cut, from which I still have a scar. Had I been able to see a doctor, I'm sure I would have needed quite a few stitches. But when I looked at the cut, the blood was there, yet I was not bleeding! It was a fascinating sight. They bandaged it up and in about two days there was not a sign of an open cut except for the scar! I called that a miracle! No infection had a chance to set in. I became very conscious of the fact that God was my doctor.
I stayed quite often with the veterinarian son and his family, during the year of 1944 and through February or March of 1945. At that time, the Russians occupied Poland, and the Poles were happy to be freed from the hand of Adolph Hitler. They thought that Russia would be their deliverer. Instead, the Russians came in like "an angel of light," (2 Cor. 11:14), making many false promises. Some of the poor Poles were very happy with the promises, for they were told that there would be no more rich families and that everybody would be equal; that all the lands would be divided up equally and everyone would be working in their own fields.
The Russians did keep their promise and divided up the lands, including most of the land that belonged to Grandma and Grandpa, which was very hard on them. It did not take long before the Poles found out that the Russian way of equality was not such a good idea after all. They learned that even though they had equal shares and were supposed to work in their own fields, they did not really work for themselves. Instead, they became slaves to the Russians!
Now that the war was over, I felt I really had nothing to fear. "The Germans are gone," I thought to myself, "so why should I fear?" Yet, I still had this fear of the Poles. After all, were they not the ones who had been after our lives, as well as the Germans? I had good reason to fear the Poles. One day, I was called into the house by Grandma's daughter-in-law, the wife of the veterinarian. She informed me that Grandma had arrived with a Russian - to take me home. Every nerve in my body was alerted! I entered the room. I saw Grandma, and then I had to look way up to see the man, for he was quite tall. You can imagine my surprise when I saw the face of the parachuted Russian who had hidden in the widow woman's house, where my sisters had stayed! Naturally, I was very happy to see him, but I dared not show my feelings. The thought came to me quickly, "Maybe he feels differently now. Maybe he has become like my father's friends'. I will not let on that I know him."
Grandma said, "This young man claims he knows you. He says you are Pesia Atramentowich." He looked at me excitedly while Grandma was talking.
When she was through, he came over to hug me, but I backed away, and said, "Grandma, I don't know who this man is. Whatever he has told you is a lie!"
Grandma said, "I told him that he was wasting his time by coming here."
The Russian said, "I have brought your sister, Ann, with me. She is waiting for you at the house. We have come to take you away from here."
Grandma agreed, "It is true, there is a woman waiting for you. She claims you are her sister."
The Russian continued to coax me, "You do not have to be afraid anymore. The war is over, the Germans are gone."
In my childlike mind, I thought, "But the Poles are still here!"
Grandma, wanting to get the matter settled and over with, urged me, "The best thing for you to do is come with us and meet this lady who claims to be your sister, and let her see she has made a mistake. On second thought, you do not have any sisters, but only one brother."
At last, Grandma said the correct thing. I looked at her and then it was I who firmly insisted, "You are right, let's go!" Then the three of us got on the sled buggy that the horses pulled, and the Russian held the reins. On the way home, he began telling me what had happened to my father and my brother, even though I tried to stop him by repeating to him, "I'm not that girl!"
He paid no attention to what I said, but continued his story: "After he left you, your father stopped by every so often with your brother, Joseph. Then finally he had to leave Joseph also, but not for long. Afterwards, Joseph was killed in a village nearby - not by the Germans, but by the 'good neighbors.' Three months before the Russians occupied Poland, the same 'good neighbors' killed your father. I think they buried them both in the same place, but I'm not sure."
I tried to hold back my tears
I remember trying to hold my tears in, and kept my face down. It was a miracle that I did not let my emotions be known to them. Only the living God could have kept me in that frame of mind.
The Russian went on, "Your sisters, Ann and Genia, lived through the war by being sent to Germany as Gentile Poles. Somehow, they managed to escape to Switzerland. After the war, they decided to return to find out if anyone was left alive." Before he was able to pass on anymore information, we were home.
I entered the room and there was indeed a lady sitting in a chair, neatly dressed. Grandma introduced me to her, but I did not recognize her as being my sister Ann. The lady began telling me how she found out where I was: She said, "When Genia and I arrived from Switzerland, we really did not know what to do or what procedures to take in finding survivors. Someone finally told us to go to the city where we came from. They said we would probably find the place where the returning Jews were registering. That is how families were being reunited. We went to the registry and asked if anyone else by this name had registered there."
The lady continued her story: "The registrar told us, 'Your cousin registered himself and also a little girl, whose name was Pesia. Your cousin instructed us as follows: 'If anything happens to me before I'm able to get her out of there, make sure that someone else gets her out of there!'"
"A few days later," said the lady, "we found out, at the registry, someone claimed that our cousin entered a store and made this remark: 'Now we are going to avenge ourselves for the killing of our families!' "
Taking a deep breath, the lady went on, "Then the registrar told us, 'As he was leaving the store, someone shot him in the back! We were just getting ready to send a man to the village, to get the little girl, for he had told us the name of the village was Trzczyniec. But now that you are here - you know where to go and can get her out of there.' And now you know, Pesia, how we managed to find you."
Of course, I had to listen to her talk, but I still did not know her. As far as I was concerned, she was a perfect stranger. I told her, "But you are not my sister. I have no sisters."
Grandma then asked her, "Do you know her?"
She answered, "Yes, she IS my sister."
But I insisted, "She is not telling the truth."
I still could not recognize her and thought, "They are really doing a great job to deceive me."
Finally, the woman gave up and said to the Russian, "There's no use, she cannot recognize me. In fact, she does not know me. We will have to leave her here."
As they were opening the door - I recognized her voice! I called her back by name, "Hana, Hana, (Ann, Ann), come back!"
Grandma stood there in shock, saying, "Pola, you do not know what you are saying. You are not Jewish!"
I was relieved to tell her, "Yes, I am Jewish. She is my sister. I recognized her voice as she was leaving, but it does not mean that I am going with her. I do not want to be a Jew anymore. I want to be Catholic. The Jewish people have to suffer too much, so I am through being a Jew. I want to be baptized, that is, if you still want me. Then I will be a real Catholic."
Grandma grabbed me and hugged me and assured me, "Of course I still want you! We will talk to the priest and he will be glad to baptize you."
My sister had no choice but to leave me there. After she left, Grandma called in her two sons (the farmers), her daughter-in-law, and Grandpa, and told them the whole story. They just stood there with their mouths wide open. The boys said, "We can just imagine how you must have felt when we were telling you what we did to that Jew! Boy! We could have sworn you were not Jewish. What a good job you have done. Boy! Are you smart!" I was relieved to come out of hiding at last. I could be a person now and be accepted for what I was - a Catholic, and no more a Jew. How often I had wished that I had not been a Jew, because of all the persecutions the Jews had suffered.
Grandma very wisely said, "Let's not say anything to the villagers about this, not even to the uncles and their families. We will make an appointment with the priest and tell him all about it and everything will be fine." We all agreed with her. Meanwhile, we went on with the usual chores, everyone doing what he was supposed to do, for about two months, when the other two sons, the accountant and the veterinarian, came for a visit. Naturally, they were told everything. Everyone agreed not to wait too much longer, but that I should soon be taken to the priest to be baptized. I was comforted to know that the following Sunday we would be talking with the priest.
Saturdays were always very busy days for us. The farmers took what vegetables and fruit they had grown, besides milk, butter, eggs, and other things, to the open market in the city to sell. I was usually left at home to cook potatoes for the pigs and to do all the other household chores. On the Saturday before the Sunday we were to visit with the priest, I was left all alone, as usual. In the late afternoon, after my chores were done, I sat myself by the window to knit some socks. When I looked out the window, there came that Russian, this time with my other sister, Genia. I got so scared I could have jumped to the ceiling! There was no time to hide. They opened the door and said, "You are coming with us, for you are not safe here!"
I said to the Russian, "I told you and Ann, when you were here the first time, that I do not want to be a Jew! I want to be a Catholic! Why have you brought Genia here to take me away?"
My sister then said, "Have you forgotten what your father said to you, that after the war you were to go to the United States, and there you will find his sister in Detroit, and she will be like a mother to you?"
I replied, "I have not forgotten, but I have decided to stay here. Tomorrow I am going to be baptized."
Genia, upon hearing my statement, cried out angrily, "We have come just in time!" They grabbed me, took me to the horse and buggy, tied me inside the buggy and took off, with me screaming!
They brought me to the village where the widow woman lived. She and her children appeared anxious to see me. I admit I too was excited, even though I had to be kidnapped to be brought there. The first thing the children said to me was, "Remember, Pola, how we got on our bed and started jumping, while you were hiding behind the stove? And when the villagers came in demanding to know where all of you were, we told them you were not here. We're sorry your father got beaten up, but we couldn't help that. Even so, weren't we smart?"
With a smile, I answered, "You sure were smart, very smart!" Then we all hugged and kissed each other.
"I don't want to be Jewish anymore. I want to be a Catholic"
Now, with my eyes full of tears, I turned to their mother and begged her, "Would you please talk to my sister Genia, for I am not able to get through to her. You see, I don't want to be Jewish anymore. I want to become a Catholic. Just before they kidnapped me, I was going to be baptized, and then I would have been a true Catholic. Won't you please have her take me back to Grandma and Grandpa?"
My sister and the Russian kept on trying to reason with me: "You know, even if we allowed you to go through with the baptism, the Poles will still look upon you as being a Jew, and not a Catholic. Jews will always be persecuted, therefore, your life will always be in danger. Don't you think the best thing for you to do is to be what you were born to be - a Jew?"
The mother then said to my sister, "Genia, maybe we are sinning against God by forcing her to be Jewish..." But Genia just ignored her.
By then, it was time for us to sit down and eat. As we were eating, I said to Genia, "There are only three of us left alive now. It's hard for me to believe that Joseph and father are dead." Such thoughts made me start to cry and my appetite left me.
Then Genia said to me, "Pola, before Ann and I left for Germany, father came to see us. He must have expected us to help you, because the first thing he said, upon entering the house, was 'Where is Pesia, isn't she here?' "
We replied to him, "No, she is not here. We told her to do what you had instructed her to do."
He moaned, "I have killed my little daughter." Then he fainted. When we reassured him that you were safe, he felt somewhat better and left. After that, we did not see him again, because we went to Germany.
The supper-table conversation was over. We got ready to leave for Siedlec. We arrived there to find my other sister very happy that their mission had been successful. Then she explained to me that the Jews who did come back to Siedlec felt unsafe living in separate quarters. Therefore, they had all decided to live in a kibbutz (commune). That way they would be safe from any attack. Since there were not enough Jews to form a kibbutz in Siedlec, they made the decision to go to Warsaw, where there was a kibbutz already formed. In that kibbutz, they shared everything. Nothing belonged to any one person.
When my sisters brought me to the kibbutz, I was the youngest one there. Hardly any children had survived the war, except those of families who lived in Russia. I was everyone's lost sister. My sisters had no chance! Everyone spoiled me rotten. At the same time, I had to be watched very closely, for they feared I might escape and go to church. Before I went to sleep, I crossed myself, knelt down by my bed and prayed. I also crossed myself before every meal.
I was appointed as a steady babysitter to a beautiful little girl, but she had only one leg. Her other leg was lost when the first bombs fell on Poland. She lived through the war in Poland because a Gentile Polish family hid her. This sweet child led me to the different outdoor parks. As we walked, she said, "I wish I could see you when you are all grown up. You are very good looking now, but I can see that you will be beautiful when you are grown up." What a statement for a little child to make. I told her in turn that I thought little girls are the most beautiful of all.
However, I was very lonely. I missed my Grandma, for I had lived with her for over two years. So they sent for her and she came to see me a few times. She was paid by a committee of Jews that were in Siedlec 25,000 zwoty for keeping me. It was very difficult for her to accept the money, because she knew if she had known that I was a Jew - she would not have kept me. She did admit this, but the money was given to her just the same. I remember the first thing she bought herself with that money was a new shawl. The shawl she'd had before was stolen by the men in the underground movement. The women wore shawls on their heads when they went to church. Grandma said, "I will remember this shawl until I die."
The stay in the kibbutz was another way of life unfamiliar to me. There were so many people yet only one big family, with everyone caring for everyone else. I remember how excited they all were about the first Passover holidays, which were now approaching, after so many years of not being able to observe them. I was chosen to ask the Ma-ne-shta-nas(the "Feer Kashes," or the "Four Questions")**, because I was the youngest.
Questions" - Wherefore is this night distinguished from all
other nights? Any other night we may eat either leavened or
unleavened bread, but on this night only unleavened bread; all
other nights we may eat any species of herbs, but this night only
bitter herbs; all other nights we do not dip even once, but on
this night twice; all other nights we eat and drink either
sitting or reclined, but on this night we all of us recline.
Usually, the youngest of the family, who is able, asks the father the four questions about why we celebrate this great holiday. Then the father explains why this wonderful celebration. Not having a father, I asked the oldest one there, who was actually like a father to all of us in the kibbutz. Usually, it's the youngest son who asks the four questions, but since there was no younger boy - I stood in place of that boy. I remember having to memorize those four questions in Hebrew. Everyone helped me. I was scared, but I did OK. In a way, we were observing this Passover not only because God had delivered the Jewish people from the hand of the pharaoh, but also because we had been delivered from another pharaoh, the one called Hitler.
I was kidnapped from Grandma's village in 1945 (possibly in March), and I stayed in Warsaw through the summer of 1946. At that time, everyone was making plans to leave for Germany, with the intention of going to Israel later. The whole kibbutz was on their way to Germany. But only German Jews were allowed to enter Germany, so the whole kibbutz said they were German Jews. My sisters instructed me that I was not to say a thing when we were on the train. I was to pretend that I was deaf and dumb. If anyone said anything to me - my sisters would speak for me, because I did not know enough German. It would be better if I said nothing. I thought, "Well, now I am deaf and dumb. What next?" Nothing bothered me anymore. St. Paul said, "...I became all things to all men, that I might by all means save some." (1 Cor. 9:22). I became all things so our lives would be preserved. In a way, it's the same thing, for to be in Christ is life, but to be outside of Christ is death.
I remember being very afraid of the German doctors
We arrived safely in Germany and were placed in DP camps (Displaced Persons camps). Not long after our arrival, I became desperately sick with an attack of appendicitis. I was taken to a hospital and operated on just in time. I remember being very afraid of the German doctors. I thought, "Once they get me on that operating table - I will be dead." I was in such pain - I was out of my head, and called the doctors "Hitlers!" However, by another one of God's miracles, I survived, and came out of the hospital just in time to attend my sister Genia's wedding.
A lot of families came back from Russia after the war. I was very happy to see them, for they had children my age. There were some orphans there too who survived the war because their parents paid Polish families all they had in order to save the lives of their children. The parents knew it would have been impossible for the children to survive alone. It sure felt good having a girlfriend and other friends my age. Now I did not feel so all alone!
It wasn't long before a school was formed in the camp for us, and kindergarten levels as well. Our teacher was a man. I remember on the very first morning we enrolled, this teacher started talking to us in Hebrew! We looked at him, thinking he was off his rocker! We said to one another, "What is he saying? He sure is jabbering away." We all laughed.
He stopped talking, and we stopped laughing. He proceeded to explain to us, in three different languages, Jewish, Polish, and Russian, why he had first spoken to us in Hebrew, a language we did not understand. He said, "From now on you will all speak one language, and that language will be Hebrew! This is the language you just heard me speak, and I heard you laugh at it. You don't realize it, but Hebrew is our original language, and it will be revived. When Israel becomes a nation, you will speak Hebrew and no other language!"
Then he picked up a book which contained "The Five Books of Moses" (Torah), and he said, "This is going to be your textbook; we have no other. You will not only learn the language from it, but also what it contains. Of course, I will teach it to you in Hebrew and you will speak only Hebrew in this room!" We all looked at each other without saying a word, for we knew he meant what he said. Every so often, he would interject a word for our understanding; but, believe it or not, in one month we were able to read, write, and even converse some in Hebrew! Many people think that Hebrew is the same as Jewish, but this is not true. The two languages are as different as night and day. The Jewish language is more like German, which has no relationship whatsoever to Hebrew. There are similarities between Hebrew and Aramaic and Arabic, the Semitic languages.
In 1947, a representative from the Hagana (Freedom Fighters) came to the camp to prepare some of the children to be smuggled into Israel. I spoke enough Hebrew to teach the kindergarten children in that camp. When the Hagana representative told me that I would be doing the same thing in Israel and that I was needed there, naturally, I wanted to go. I told my sisters, who did not object to my going, for I was a real fighter, ready to fight for a land that would really belong to us. We would not be persecuted again throughout the world, for we would have our own nation, and I would not have to fear anyone anymore!
I got my suitcase, packed the few things I had, and left with a bunch of other boys and girls for the truck. We all got on the truck, which drove to the gate, where it was stopped for inspection. A friend of my brother-in-law was on duty at that time and he noticed me, dragged me off the truck and told the driver to move on. He tried to explain to me how dangerous it was to go, and that it would be a miracle if they arrived in Israel safely. And sure enough, after a month or so, we heard that a bomb explosion had killed the whole group, after they had arrived in Israel.
After such reports, some of the people started to lose sight of going to Israel and began to register to go to other countries, such as, Argentina, Brazil, Canada, France, or any country that would take them in. No one could really blame them after all they had been through. My brother-in-law had a family in New York, in the United States of America. They sent him and my sister papers to go there. They wanted to take me with them, but could not. In order for me to be able to go with them, they registered me with other orphans who were to go to the United States of America. An American social worker arrived at the DP camp to register all the children without parents who wanted to go to America.
It sounded good to my sister, but my heart was set for Israel, especially when my Hebrew was coming along so well. I just hated the thought of having to learn another language, which would be English. I was already speaking Jewish, Polish, Russian, German, and Hebrew, and was beginning to speak Czechoslovakian and Hungarian. I seemed to have no problem picking up a language, but English sounded very difficult to me. I thought I would have to pop a hot potato in my mouth in order to get the proper sound.
Shortly after I was registered, I was interviewed a few times and then taken away by a social worker in a jeep to a children's center, also in Germany. The children's center was more like a resort. We stayed there for a few months until we had gained some weight, and then we were taken to a larger center, near Munich. This children's center consisted of children from all different parts of the world. They were waiting for their visas like I was, for the United States of America. The buildings were divided into dorms. One block consisted of boys, another of girls. The blocks were supplied with "room mothers." We each had a choice of different trades to study. School started at 9:00 A.M. and lasted until 4:00 P.M. I studied to be a dental technician, which was very interesting. Another girl and I were the only ones in the class with a bunch of boys. The German professor we had was really nice.
I remember when Israel become a nation in May 1948
One day, I received a letter from my sister telling me that her husband had changed his mind about going to the United States of America. Instead, he wanted to go to his own country, Israel, now that we had a country. It was in May 1948, when Israel was declared a nation. I will never forget it! Everyone danced the Hora in the streets! What joy was in the camp! We had all registered before that, and I left for the children's center in Germany, after Israel was declared a nation. I could not see why my brother-in-law had changed his mind. It puzzled me.
My sister went on to say in the letter that they were already packed and on their way. She told me they would be stopping in the vicinity where the children's center was, and that I would be able to come see them off, and at the same time it would be arranged for me to leave for Israel. I met them at the appointed place. There were others very enthusiastic, all of them trying to talk me into going to Israel. They even had someone there waiting to take me to an airplane, so I could be in Israel before they were. I too became excited and said, "Yes!" But I'd forgotten that I had left the children's center without permission and told my sister about it.
She told me, "Go back quickly before they notice you are missing, but don't tell them anything about the plans we just made. If they find out - you will not be able to leave."
I did as Genia said, with the intention of sneaking out from the children's center the following day to fly to Israel. When I arrived at camp it was suppertime, but I was not very hungry. Nevertheless, I did go to the cafeteria, and who approached me but the rabbi! The first thing he said was "Where were you this afternoon? I looked but you were nowhere around."
I thought to myself, "I have to talk to someone I can trust and why should I not trust the rabbi?" So I told him everything.
He looked at me and said, "They all mean well, but you are still so young you have never really lived. It is better for you to go to the United States of America and experience what it is to live as a normal person; to go to school with children who have never gone through what you have gone through, and learn. After you have been there for awhile, you can always go to Israel, but it will not be so easy from Israel to go to the United States of America."
When he was through talking, I remembered what father had said, "After the war, go to America."
I told the rabbi what my father had told me, and the rabbi said, "Do what you heard your father say and do not listen to anyone else." I did not even go back to tell the others I was not going to Israel. I stayed right there at the children's center and went to school, until my visa was ready for me to leave for the United States of America.
On September 22, 1949, I left for Munich, Germany, by plane, with other teenagers who were going to America. The only ones allowed on the plane were children and pregnant women from DP camps. Husbands were to follow by boat, because there wasn't room for them on the plane. We were all quite excited about the plane ride, as it was the first time for us, even though we were a little scared. The ride was really nice, until I went into the restroom and saw one of the pregnant women vomiting. Up to that time - I had felt real good! After that, I constantly had to have a bag at my seat, because I was so nauseous - I would never have made it to the restroom again. Our first landing was in Ireland. I remember we were taken to a beautiful restaurant for supper. The tables were elegantly set, with waiters and waitresses serving us. It was a wonderful sight for everyone, but I was too sick to enjoy it. And I was the only one who was sick, so I surely had mixed emotions when it came time to board the plane again, but I had no choice. The second landing took place in Newfoundland. There we were taken for some refreshments, probably while the plane was being refueled. From there, our destination was America.
We landed in New York, where a representative from the Jewish Social Service was awaiting us. We were all taken on a bus to a children's center where food was waiting for us. It was a completely new atmosphere. Somehow we managed to go to sleep after being up for hours. We awakened for breakfast, and after breakfast we were instructed as to what they were going to do with us. Each one was told where he was going to go from there. I was told that as soon as they could find a foster home for me in Detroit I would be sent there. I did not want to go to Detroit; I wanted to go with my girlfriend to St.Paul, Minnesota.
The Jewish Social Service told me, "We have been searching for your aunt in Detroit. You told us that your father had told you that he has a sister there. By being in the same city, it might be easier for you to find her. That is why you are going to Detroit."
Two weeks after Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement), I was put on a train going to Detroit. When I arrived, a Jewish social worker met me and took me to her office. From there she called the foster parents informing them of my safe arrival. Shortly afterwards, we arrived at their home. The Jewish Social Service sure picked a family for me. They spoke only English and not a word of anything else! You can just imagine how I felt. You would think that the social worker would have some understanding of my feelings. If she would have just realized how forlorn I felt, for I did not know anyone. At least she could have placed me with a family that spoke one of the languages I was familiar with, but instead, she concentrated on a family that was Jewish.
I, of course, thought every Jew in the world spoke Jewish. In Poland we spoke Polish and Jewish. So when I was asked what kind of family I wanted to live with, Jewish Orthodox or Conservative, I told them, "One not so religious." However, I did not know there would be Jews in America who did not know a word of Jewish! I had taken it for granted they would all speak Jewish and English, for I had never known a Jew who didn't speak Jewish. And though I had never met what I once heard called a "Reformed Jew," I decided this family must be "Reformed Jews." But after awhile, I found out most American Jews were Jews in name only, and were neither Orthodox, nor conservative, nor Reformed Jews.
The social worker that took me there introduced me to Mr. and Mrs. Whispy, who had a son, and a daughter my age, and a young man who was a boarder. Once again I began speaking in sign language, only this time I didn't have to be deaf and dumb, as I had to be on the train from Poland to Germany. The social worker said to me, "I'll let you stay here for a few days, and after that I will come back and take you to a school where you will learn English."
After I had been with the foster parents for about six months, my foster mother somehow found out about a club where only the people of Siedlec met. When she told me about this club, I expressed to her my interest in meeting with them.
She said, "I will get the telephone number from the president of the club and inform her of your being with us. Maybe she will be able to come over and meet you."
I became very excited and told my foster mother to be sure to get in touch with the president, thinking that maybe my father's sister meets with this club. When the time came for this woman to come over one evening, I could hardly wait to meet her. She was a very pleasant person to talk with. I told her about my family and she knew them all from Poland. She had especially known my mother and told me how beautiful and talented she had been. However, the woman did not know of my aunt here in America, let alone in Detroit.
When I told her that even from Germany they had looked for her in all the papers, she said, "I bet they did not look for her in the "Forvitz" (a Jewish newspaper). She probably does not read English, for many of these people, even though they have been here for years, have never learned to read and write English. I will tell you what I will do: I will go to the Forvitz and tell them about you and your aunt. They will have a write-up about this in the Forvitz, and if she is still alive - you can be sure to hear from her."
As soon as that was done, I heard from the woman president on the telephone, telling me that a woman answering my aunt's description had called the Forvitz. You can just imagine what went through my mind when the woman president told me, "Tomorrow morning the Forvitz will have this woman in their office, so be ready, for I'm picking you up to meet her."
I hardly slept that night; everyone in the household was excited with me. The following morning, I got up, ate breakfast and off we went to the Forvitz. Everyone in the place stopped working and were all gathered in one area to witness the reunion! I could not imagine how in the world I would know if she were really my aunt. As I was approaching the group of people, my eyes saw this woman's eyebrows. They looked just like my father's! I walked right up to her and said, "You are my father's sister."
"You are my father's sister"
She asked, "How do you know?"
I replied, "By your eyebrows. They are just like my father's." Then she sat down with me and had me describe my father and the rest of the family.
In the meantime, all the people were just standing there with their mouths wide open, not wanting to miss one word. After awhile, she said to all, "This is really my niece, there is no doubt about it. I have been looking in your paper every day since the war was over, hoping someone by that name would be in the paper. Everyday I saw everyone looking for someone else, not knowing if anyone was left alive from my family. Now, after all these years, I saw my maiden name in the paper."
Of course, my Aunt was married, so her name was not the same. Eventually, I found out I had a first cousin, her daughter, and cousins in New York and Argentina. I moved out from my foster parents' home to live with my Aunt. Her home was just like ours back in Poland: it was strictly Orthodox, not at all like that of an American Jew. She lived here, but the atmosphere was of Poland, under all that Orthodox Law! I was not used to that kind of life anymore. When my Aunt realized this, she called me "the shiksah" (female Gentile). When Saturday (Shabboth, the Sabbath) came, I was allowed to turn on the stove or a light (ordinarily forbidden), because I was not like her. One time, I took a knife by mistake, a knife that was supposed to be used for meats only, and used it for butter. She saw it! The knife was "polluted" after that. She took the knife, put it in the ground, and then scrubbed it. In this way, it became "purified" under the law. After that incident, I had to be very careful.
I had thought that once I found my Aunt - I would be able to live with her, that it would be just as my father had said, "She will be like a mother to you." But after I moved in with her, I found it to be more of a shock to me than when I had come to the foster home. I wondered when I had been with my Aunt for awhile, which was worse. In the foster home, I did not know the language, but in my Aunt's home - I found myself completely out of touch with the Jewish Orthodox way of living. We had to have two sets of dishes, two sets of silverware, two sets of dishtowels, and to remember not to eat dairy foods for six hours after having eaten meat. We were also to remember not to turn on a light after sundown on Friday, or light the stove, or answer the telephone until sundown on Saturday.
My Aunt lived on Gladstone, right off 12th Street, in Detroit, in one of the apartment houses. Her first husband had died, so she remarried. Her second husband was very nice, a humble man, who worked for a synagogue. They weren't poor and they weren't rich, but they had contentment about them. They liked things just the way they were. The Americanization school was only a block away from where my Aunt lived, so I was able to walk to school. When I lived with my foster parents on Martindale Street, I had to take a streetcar to school.
One Friday, before the sun went down, my Aunt sent me to the bakery for a chale (Sabbath egg bread). The traffic was very heavy at that hour, so the cars stopped to let me cross the street. But one car at the other end was coming at full speed and did not see me. I still believe it was a miracle I wasn't killed. I ran across the street with such force that I was lucky to run into a wall there that stopped me. The cars just kept on honking and honking at that man, and I was safe again!
The time came for me to enter regular classes. I was put with the ninth graders, where I liked it very much. In order for me to make up a full grade, I went to summer school. While in summer school, I met a girl who became my friend. Since she didn't live too far away from me, we used to be in each other's homes quite often.
One of the boys, who was sent to Chicago from the children's center, found out where I lived from a friend of his he was visiting in Detroit. The boy from Chicago called me and asked me if I would like to go swimming. The friend he was visiting in Detroit had a car. The Chicago boy said, "If you have a girlfriend for my Detroit friend - we can pick you up, and the four of us can go swimming at Rouge Park."
"It all sounds so nice," I told him, "but I can't go out because of all the homework I have."
The Chicago boy pleaded with me until I finally agreed to go. I told him, "Please call me back, for I have to call Martha, my girlfriend."
When I called her, she said, "There's no problem, but Rubin, my cousin, has a date also. How about they come with us, since Rubin does not have a car?"
"It's O.K. with me," I answered. "The more the merrier!" When they arrived, it was nice to see my friend from the children's center once more. He introduced me to his Detroit friend and soon we were on our way to pick up Martha and Rubin, her cousin.
We honked the horn for Martha to come out. I did not know her cousin, Rubin, lived right next door to her. When he came out, I looked at him and said to myself, "I would like to marry this man." Then I thought, "I must be insane thinking such things!"
The girl Rubin was taking out lived next door to Martha too. All of us got in the car and off we went to Rouge Park. The weather was beautiful. As we were swimming, I forgot that I really didn't know how to swim. I was underwater having myself a great time, when someone swam under me and lifted me up bodily! Who was it but Rubin! Rubin Agauas, Martha's cousin!
Love at first sight
After that, we were inseparable! Someone gave Rubin a birthday party and he invited me to be his guest. In the middle of the party, he grabbed my hand and we ran off to the park. But everyone else was following us! It was a riot! In short, we were in love. You might even call it "love-at-first-sight." Shortly after, Rubin enlisted in the Merchant Marines and I did not hear from him for awhile. Eventually, he did write me and we kept up the correspondence. Then he was drafted into the army. In the meantime, I was going to school and finishing my high school education. I had many friends. Boys were no problem. I went to parties and loved to dance. I couldn't see going to any place where there was no dancing, and how was I going to marry someone who did not dance? Rubin did not really dance, except for a slow tango.
Staying with my Aunt was becoming very difficult due to her set ways. I told my social worker I would like to move out. She found me a foster home and I moved there, with my Aunt's consent, for she understood me. By this time, I was able to make myself understood by my social worker, for language was not a barrier anymore. Therefore, she was able to find me a foster home that was closer to my heart's desire. They were a middle-aged Jewish couple, living alone. They had one daughter, who was married and living away from home. They spoke some Jewish, but this no longer mattered to me.
Rubin came home from the army, after being stationed in Germany. That was March 1953. We became engaged at the same time I was finishing high school. We decided to get married on June 28, 1953. It was a very exciting time! On June 17th - I graduated, and on the 28th we were married, in a Jewish Orthodox Synagogue, with Cantor Adler singing "Because."
I went to work for Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation, doing general office work, mostly typing. I became pregnant, after the doctor told me I would not be able to have any children. On June 17, 1955, Nathan Jeffrey Agauas was born! He was so ugly he was beautiful! When I took him for a walk in the buggy, I would put him on his stomach, so no one could see him. But as he got older, he got better looking.
Rubin loved me so much he wanted to give me everything to make me happy. One thing stopped him, and that thing was money. In order to obtain money quickly - he began to gamble. The more he played cards - the more he lost, even to the point of losing the rent money. Nathan was only six months old at that time and not having anyone to help me, I was unable to work. Rubin would stay out for nights at a time. Then he would show up in the morning, with no money. Things were becoming desperate with us. I wanted to divorce him, but each time I thought about it, I remembered what the rabbi had said, "Whom God has joined together, let no man put asunder." Then I would get this terrible fear of God and could not go through with the divorce.
There was one other way out. One morning, while Nathan was having his nap, I laid myself down on the couch, with the TV on. Instead of watching TV, I was trying to decide what would be the easiest way of committing suicide. I felt that no one really cared if I were alive or dead. The only time I had a husband, family and friends was when I was able to entertain them and give them extravagant gifts. As I was meditating on these unpleasant things, forgetting even that the TV was on, I heard the announcer say, "If you feel that you are all alone and no one cares for you, remember, God loves you." I awakened from my thoughts and became very quiet, as if every fiber in my being was overcome with a perfect peace. In this attitude of mind, I heard these words being spoken to me, "Don't you remember when I was with you when you were all alone, and I cared for you? I am Jesus and I am with you now."
I did not have to hear anything else! I jumped off the couch and screamed, "Jesus! Jesus! You are still in my heart! You never left me, and I thought no one cared for me. Oh, how I love you, Jesus!" I could hardly contain myself. I felt as if I owned the whole world! After a little while, I sat down and thought of all that had been transpiring in this short time. Suddenly, my thoughts came into focus: "What am I doing? I am not supposed to believe in Jesus anymore! I am a Jew! I am sinning against God! I am not going to tell a soul about this, I will just keep it to myself." As I got my thoughts together, I straightened up the place and began dinner. Rubin came home from work and all was well - that is, as well as could be, for Rubin still gambled. But I was never the same after that experience; and, somehow, I was not as lonely as before.
I told them I knew a God who hears me praying without paying
The high holidays, Rosh Hashana (New Year) and Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement) were approaching. Everyone whose parents, brother, or sister, were deceased, usually went to the synagogue to say Yizkor, a prayer for the deceased. Rubin and I went to the synagogue to say this prayer, but they would not let us in, because we did not buy a ticket! I just couldn't believe my ears! We couldn't go into the House of God without paying for a ticket! Some of our friends came out of the synagogue and offered to give us their tickets, so we could go in and say the prayers, but I would not hear of it. I told them I knew a God who hears me without having to pay for a ticket to enter the synagogue! I asked Rubin to take me home.
After a few weeks, I became very concerned about Nathan. I remembered how father would sit down with my brother and me and have us repeat after him the daily prayers, but Rubin did not even read the Bible and was not at all like my father. How would our child learn about God when Rubin had not read a thing about God since he'd had to memorize some of the things from the Torah for his Bar Mitzvah? I panicked, feeling frightened and alarmed, yet I could do nothing about it, except ponder it in my heart. Weeks went by, when suddenly someone knocked on the door. I opened it, with the chain still on the door, for Rubin had told me to keep the door latched and let no stranger in. It was a man, who asked me if I belonged to a synagogue or church, saying that he was just taking a survey. I said, "No, I do not belong to anything like that, but I have been thinking a lot about our son, wondering how he is going to learn about the things of God when his father does not know the Bible."
I realized the man was still behind the door, so I unchained the door and was able to see that the man looked Jewish and asked him if he was Jewish. He answered, "Yes. I believe that Jesus is the Messiah."
I had him repeat his statement. I had never heard of another Jew believing in Jesus, and here is a Jew telling me he believes Jesus is the Messiah! I could not contain myself and told him about what had happened to me a few months ago, when I was lying on the couch. I also told him about what I was told when I first looked at the picture of Jesus, many years before, in catechism class: "Don't be afraid. I have gone through the same thing you are going through. I am a Jew. I have overcome the world and so will you."
When he heard this, the man took the Bible he had in his hands, opened it to John 16:33, and read this to me: "These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world."
Sure enough - there it was in black and white
I had to read it for myself. I could not believe that he was really reading it, and sure enough, there it was in black and white. I jumped off the chair with excitement. The same Jesus that I knew as just another Jew - is the very Messiah! I could barely contain it!
He had to leave for it was getting late. I told him I could hardly wait for my husband to come home from work so I could tell him this wonderful news. I asked him to come over in the evening so my husband could meet him. He said he would come with his wife and left.
Rubin came home from work shortly after the man left. I ran up to him and kissed him, which I had not done for a long time. He did not know what had gotten into me and asked what I had been drinking. I explained, "A man was here and told me that Jesus is the Messiah! And the man who told me that Jesus is the Messiah is also a Jew! You see, for the longest time I thought I was sinning, because I believed in Jesus, but I would never tell you about it. Today I found out that my Jesus is the Messiah! Isn't that wonderful?"
Rubin became red in the face and said angrily, "You are crazy! I do not want you to mention this to anyone, and you'd better forget about this whole thing!"
I did not say a thing to him after that and began to serve supper. Rubin too had been born into a Jewish Orthodox home, the youngest of five boys. His father had so longed for a girl that I can just imagine how he must have felt after being disappointed for the fifth time. On top of that, Rubin's mother died from childbirth when she had Rubin. Rubin grew up with the thought in his mind that his father resented him for his mother's death, for he was harshly disciplined by his father. His father would accuse him of things Rubin would never even think of doing. He always called Rubin a liar. It got to the point where Rubin thought to himself, "I might as well do some of the things he's accusing me of doing, then at least I'll feel a little bit better!" Rubin did not have a home life; his aunts mostly brought him up. His father remarried when Rubin was about 12 years old. Things got better for him then, since he had a more normal home.
After Rubin's mother died, his father gave up his belief even in the existence of God, for he had loved his wife very much. One might say he became an atheist. But I liked him a lot, and he liked me the best of his daughters-in-law. He would say to me, "Paula, I like you, for you always tell me the truth. You're not like my other daughters-in-law. They say one thing to my face, but behind my back - they stab me. Why are you marrying my Rubin? You can get yourself someone much better."
I answered him, "Because I love him." Then he would laugh. He was a very honest person, who could make a dollar stretch further than anyone I knew.
Here is something really funny. Every time it got windy outside, he would call me up and say, "Paula, don't go out today, the wind will blow you away." He would say this because I weighed 95 pounds and was five feet tall. Or he would say, "Don't eat spaghetti, for you are too short."
When Nathan was born I was going to name him Joseph, after my brother, Joseph. But, when I awakened from the anesthesia, Rubin told me, "You cannot name him Joseph, because my father's name is Joseph, and he is still alive."
Though I was quite disappointed, I understood Rubin's feelings, for it is Jewish tradition to name your children after a favored relative who has died; but it is a strong Jewish superstition that if you have a living relative by that same name - then you put the living relative in great jeopardy of death or terrible sickness, if you use their name for your child. So I nicknamed our son "Neddy," which actually made Nathan named after my father instead.
Nathan was our only child to have a Grandpa and Grandma. He was deeply loved by them. Grandpa spoiled him for four years. Then one evening, while he was watching wrestling on the TV, Grandpa said to his wife, "Would you please get me a glass of water. I don't feel so good." While she was in the kitchen getting the water, he died of a heart attack, right in the chair! The man had never been really sick in his entire life.
After I told Rubin My Good News that Jesus is the Messiah, I just couldn't wait to call my cousin and tell her also. When she heard me - she gave such a scream in the telephone that I thought my eardrum would break! She said angrily, "If you persist in this nonsense, you will never hear from me again! She slammed down the phone without saying goodbye! After that, I did not hear from her for awhile.
A week or so passed when I received a telephone call from the same man, asking if it was all right for him and his wife to come over in the evening. I told him, "Yes." When Rubin came home, I told him we were going to have company. Of course, he wanted to know who was coming over. I told him, but, to my surprise, he did not object.
They came and I introduced them to Rubin, and right off they said, "Just call us Betty and Ted. Our last name is Paul." They were so very friendly; Rubin liked them right away. We talked about many things. Because Rubin liked to read comic books, Ted began to read comic books; and, next time they came over, Rubin and Ted had that in common.
"I thought Charleston Hesston really WAS Moses!"
Rubin felt so free talking to them that he made this remark one evening: "I have to be honest with you. When I went to see the movie The Ten Commandments, I thought that Charleston Hesston really was Moses! That's how much I know about the Bible!"
Betty and Ted called themselves "Hebrew-Christians." After awhile, they brought other Hebrew-Christians for us to meet. One evening, Rev. Arthur Glass came over. He was Pastor of the Hebrew-Christian Church. Right away he started preaching to Rubin (not at all like Ted), and Rubin literally told him to leave, then opened the door for him! I just sat there with my mouth open.
Shortly after, Ted and Betty asked me to go to their church one evening, because a baby shower was being given for Betty. She was expecting her first baby. I agreed to go to their church, where I met for the very first time a lot of Jewish believers in Jesus. Grace Brickner introduced herself to me. She was the daughter of Rev. Arthur Glass. I wondered if Rubin would even say hello to her, after having met her father. Even so, I asked her to come with her husband, Harold Brickner, and visit us. Not long after that, they came over, and eventually Rubin and Harold and Gracey and I became close friends. One evening, they brought over Charley Jones, a Gentile believer in Jesus. Yet to me - he seemed to be a true Jew, because he knew Jesus like I did.
Then came the time Charley and Harold asked Rubin to go with them to the Hebrew-Christian Church to hear Haskell Stone speak. Rubin accepted the invitation. I stayed home with Nathan, who was three years old by then, and read the Bible that Ted Paul had given me after his first visit. I immediately devoured the Gospel of St. John. To me the book of St. John was the whole Bible, because of St. John 16:33: "I have said this to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world." Every page was full of love. After St. John, my favorite was the Psalms of David. I just couldn't wait to partake of the Word of Life! I never had to memorize Scriptures, they just jumped out of the pages into my heart!
One time, Ted Paul suggested I take a "Navigator Course" of memorizing Scriptures. I said, "O.K." But I couldn't, no matter how hard I tried. I finally told him it was no use, and gave it up.
As I was sitting there reading the Bible, Rubin and the others came back from church. I hadn't really expected anything to happen, but when I looked up at Rubin, his face seemed different, full of excitement! He said, "Honey, all my life I cursed God and did not know it. Haskell Stone was speaking from the Book of Job, and when he came to the part where Job's wife said, 'Why don't you curse God and die!' (Job 2:9), I realized right then and there that God was telling me that I was cursing Him! Honey, He is the Messiah!" He hugged me and kissed me, but I did not tell him l was crazy, as he had told me!
When he said, "I want to be just like Job," I became very upset, because Rubin did not really know the Book of Job, and he did not realize what he was asking. I had already read it during my times of trials with Rubin, when he was giving me a hard time.
I told him, "You'd better not ask to be like Job right now, but read the book first, and then tell me if you still want to be like Job."
Rubin very seriously said, "I don't care - I still want to be like Job."
Rubin started to read the Bible for the first time
That evening we rejoiced and sang. Rubin started to read the Bible for the first time, in the same hungry way as I did. I was no longer the only one in the household believing in Jesus. I now had my husband. Rubin asked Haskell Stone if he would hold Bible studies in our fourth floor-elevator apartment. Haskell was very happy to do this. So every Friday night our apartment was full of people hungry to learn the Word of God. Since the Book of St. John was my favorite, Haskell started teaching from there. Then he taught from the "Sermon on the Mount" (St. Matthew: 5). As far as I was concerned, it was Jesus speaking from the pages to me, personally, as if no one else were in the room. After that study, Haskell taught from St. Matthew 28:16-20, concerning "The Great Commission." It was emphasized how important it is for us to be baptized. In order to become a member of the church (the Body of Christ) and be obedient to that Word, Rubin and I decided to become baptized.
Ted Paul baptized us in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Ghost. We both felt very good. I went to sleep that Sunday night and dreamed that a dove set itself on my shoulder and cuddled me in its wings. When I awakened in the morning, I could still feel the warmness of its feathers. I remember Betty Paul mentioning to me a few times about "Jesus being the Very God." But I would just look at her and think to myself, "She cannot mean that... Jesus is God! I know him now as the Messiah, but not God!" She never argued with me.
I was invited one day to lunch by Grace Brickner. I went. There were only the two of us and we were just chatting about everything. Then she made this statement: "You know, Paula, Rosalyn Stone (Haskell's wife) and I were talking about you the other day, and we came to the conclusion that you do not know Jesus as the Very God, but only as the Son of God, the Messiah."
I said, "How else should I know Him when He is That?"
Grace opened the Bible and said, "Sit down with me on the couch and let's read from the prophet Isaiah 9:6: "For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given, and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called 'Wonderful counselor, The Mighty God, The Everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace."'
When she read it - it did not register. It was as if a veil were over my head. I was blank, and I knew it. I said to her, "I don't know what you're trying to prove."
Grace prayed that God would take this veil away from me and reveal Himself as The Very God. Then I read it for myself, and for the first time I saw Him as God! I jumped from the couch, grabbed Grace and danced around and around! I could not contain myself for the great joy that flooded my being. I could not imagine that the creator of the whole world and everything in it could love me personally! For the first time, He had revealed Himself to me as a personal God!
It was not long after this experience that a change took place in the Hebrew Christian Church, and quite a few of us started meeting in each other's homes every Sunday. We then truly experienced New Testament living. We did not just come together in the morning for one or two hours, but for the whole day and evening. The Word does declare, "Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God." (Matthew 4:4) So we ate of that Word!
About six months later, I became pregnant. Nine months after that, I gave birth to our second son, Joseph Richard Agauas. I was disappointed he wasn't a girl, but this time I was able to name him Joseph, not only after my brother, but also after my father-in-law, whom I respected very much. Joey, our second son, is like his grandfather in a way, for he too is crazy about sports, like his grandfather was.
When I knew I was pregnant with Joey, we had to look for another place to live, for the apartment would have been too small for another child. I was in my fifth month when Rubin looked in the paper and found a downstairs five room flat. I remember moving into the flat the first of April, (April Fool's Day), with our friends painting and getting it ready for us. We then had more room for everyone to sit around the dining room table comfortably.
Good Friday appeared so quickly, I was glad we were all moved in before Easter. I remember the weather on that Good Friday of 1960 was beautiful. It was in the afternoon when I asked Rubin to take Nathan and me for a ride. As we were driving, I became more nervous than usual, and suddenly I said to Rubin, "Rubin, the way you are driving is making me very nervous. Don't you see how close you are to the other car? If he suddenly stops - you have no choice but to hit him! Why don't you go see Dr. Benjamin, the eye doctor? You probably need glasses."
Rubin agreed with me. "All right, I have noticed lately that my eyes have been failing me. And one of our friends was astonished the other day to see how very large the pupils were. Let's stop and see Dr. Benjamin now. If he's too busy, I'll make an appointment."
When we got to the office, Dr. Benjamin, knowing the family, took Rubin in right away, to examine his eyes and fit him for glasses. I waited and waited. Finally, they came out. Rubin said to me, "He cannot give me any glasses. He advises me to go to Sinai Hospital, where they will run further tests on me. The doctor suspects a tumor behind my eyes. Glasses will not help me."
Of course, Rubin went to Sinai Hospital as soon as room was available for him. The following Monday he checked in and had to stay there for 10 days. After 10 days, they had the true results, which stated all the facts. They did not find a tumor behind Rubin's eyes or on his brain. Hearing such good news made me very happy. Rubin said, "Don't get so happy. I have glaucoma. They will try to operate - if it's not too late."
I had never heard of this disease. After I left Rubin at the hospital, I went to see the eye specialist who was in charge of Rubin's case, to try to find out what was truly going on. The doctor invited me into his office. Since he knew why I had come to see him, he told me outright, without warning, "Mrs. Agauas your husband is blind." I could not believe my ears, so I asked him to repeat it. This time he explained to me that it was too late to operate, and that in a matter of three to six months - Rubin would have to use a white cane.
I always abhorred seeing people with white canes. I could not imagine how anyone could live that way; and now the very thing I feared - came into my own life. Those were some of the thoughts racing through my head as the doctor talked. I said to him, "Are you sure? Have you consulted with other doctors?"
He answered, "Yes, there is no question about it." For some reason, he became very angry with me and added, "It will take a real miracle to restore his eyes."
But that was all I had to hear. Little did he know that my being alive was a miracle. I told him, "You just gave me great hope by saying what you said. I do believe in a God of miracles!" I left his office and got into the car, rejoicing and crying at the same time, for I knew without a doubt that God would take care of the situation.
I had been invited to my girlfriend Prieda's house for dinner that evening. When I got there, she asked me what the doctor had said. (She was not a believer in Jesus.) I told her the doctor's words, without being able to control my tears, not realizing that I was out of God's atmosphere (realm of faith) and was back in earthly atmosphere. The only thing I could see was having a blind husband! I said to Freida, "I hope and pray he will at least be able to see his newborn child, before he goes blind." So she cried with me and comforted me.
The following morning, I went to pick up Rubin from the hospital. He asked if the doctor had talked with me. I said, "Yes, he did. And did he say anything to you?"
Rubin replied, "I'll have to take some pills and put drops in my eyes four times a day. He also said I can go back to work, and come see him in two weeks."
The company Rubin worked for (American Tubing Company) wanted a statement from the doctor concerning Rubin's absence. The doctor filled out a form and sent it in. It did not take long after the company received the form that Rubin was told he would be unable to work there (or any other place), for no one wants to take a chance on someone who is going blind. He was a bad risk; therefore, the labor union would not allow him to work, and no other job was available. We did not know where our rent would come from, or the money for all the other expenses, especially with a second baby on the way. There was a doctor bill of $100 unpaid. I had been paying him off with each visit - until Rubin lost his job. Thoughts of all of these things made me sick to my stomach.
We turned to the Word of God for direction
The first thing we would hear someone say was "Why don't you go on Welfare?" But I would not hear of it. I just knew this was not God's will concerning us. Rubin agreed. We told the church fellowship about it. They felt the same way. We turned to the Word to find out how the New Testament Church handled a situation like this. In the Book of Acts 2:44-47, we found the answer: "And all that believed were together ... and parted to all men, as every man had need. They continued daily with one accord, breaking bread from house to house... Praising God, and having favor with all people."
We were not the only fellowship that saw this truth. There were fellowships in Colorado and California that saw it. They, too, lived in that manner. When they found out about us, they wrote and asked if they could help. Many times money did come in from them, when there was a shortage in our fellowship. Many times I would look in my purse and find money unaccounted for; or we would find envelopes with money in them in the mail box, not knowing where they came from. One afternoon, while we were in the backyard, the mailman brought us a Special Delivery letter containing a Cashier's check for the amount of $100. It came just a few days away from my six-week's check-up after Joey was born. I knew exactly what this check was for. It was in my name and the balance of my doctor's bill was $100. I just took the check with me and signed it over. This sort of thing went on for two years. Every need was beautifully provided for by the true and living God. That is the way we learned about God as Jehovah-Jireh: "In the mount of the LORD it shall be seen." (Genesis 22:14)
Joseph was born on August 9, 1960. Rubin's eyes could see him, and even though he was a beautiful baby, Rubin was very impatient with him, because of the fear he had of being blind some day. One day, I became so angry - I told Rubin, "Look, we have a choice. We can commit the whole thing to God and be happy, knowing that "all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose" (Romans 8:28). Or we can go on arguing about everything, and, before we know it, we will not be able to stand each other. This is all up to you."
Rubin listened and when I was through, he said, "You are absolutely right. I am a heel! After what God has already done for us, we are going to be happy as we look to the Lord and not the circumstances."
Long before this conversation took place, during the first dark days after Rubin's diagnosis, Haskell Stone, Harold Brickner, and some of the other elders had come over to our house and prayed for Rubin and anointed him with oil, according to the instructions of the Book of James 5:13-16:
"Is any among you afflicted? Let him pray. Is any merry? Let him sing psalms. Is any sick among you? Let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up; and if he has committed sins, they shall be forgiven him.
Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that you may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much. Elijah was a man subject to like passions as we are, and he prayed earnestly that it might not rain: and it rained not on the earth by the space of three years and six months. And he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain, and the earth brought forth her fruit.
Brothers, if any of you do err from the truth, and one convert him; let him know, that he who converts a sinner from the error of his way shall save a soul from death, and shall hide a multitude of sins."
After the elders prayed over Rubin, the glaucoma seemed to be arrested, and got no worse than it had been during Rubin's first examination in the hospital. We were all elated, certain a miracle had taken place!
But eventually, when we began attending a different church, Bethesda Missionary Temple, Rubin felt it best to attend a Thursday morning service, so that Pastor Mary D. Beall, a gifted woman preacher, could pray for Rubin's eyes. The Lord continued to arrest the disease so it did not go any further.
A social worker was assigned to Rubin from the Association of the Blind. The social worker himself was completely blind, with a white cane, but he got along better than some that see. A very pleasant person, he told us of the literature that the Library of the Blind had, and before long, Rubin began to receive literature with large letters for the partially blind, because regular print had become too small for him to read.
After awhile, his eyes began to get tired reading even the larger print, so the Library offered him a selection of talking-records. The Bible was in this selection. Rubin had the Psalms sent first, with a record player, and I was excited with him. Alexander Scourby, a beautiful reader, reads the records. I was able to go on with my household duties and listen to the Word of God being read, with Rubin. I can say that for seven years we went through a school that had been prepared for us by the Living God. Praise His Holy Name! What a wonderful Teacher we have!
After two years of God revealing Himself to us as a Provider, we began to receive social Security Disability checks and Veteran's Administration pension checks. This was something we had never counted on. The fellowship was very happy for this door being opened to us and everyone was thanking God for it.
After having such beautiful fellowship in the homes, a spirit of dissension came into our group. I, for one, became very dissatisfied. I wanted more of God. I did not know what to think of it, but I heard myself saying, "I have to come out of this."
Everyone in the group knew Mr. and Mrs. Walter Wilson, who preferred we call them "Uncle Scoop and Aunt Dot." They lived around the corner from us, and were the parents of Ted Wilson, who had married Grace Brickner's sister, Marilyn. One day, Aunt Dot asked me if I would be willing to go with her next Sunday morning to give my testimony to her Sunday School class at Bethesda Missionary Temple. I did not know what to do, so I told her I would tell the group about it and see what they had to say.
On Friday, as usual, everyone came to the Bible Study at our house. After we all sat down, I told them about Aunt Dot asking me to give my testimony to her Sunday School class. I asked if they would pray about it with me, for I wanted God's will. It was quiet for a little while, then Haskell said, "I don't see why you shouldn't go, but you might not be the same afterwards. You know, they have a woman preacher there."
I had never heard of a woman preacher before and Aunt Dot had never told me about it either. But why should she have told me? She had only asked me to come to her class.
Then another one said, "I don't think she should go. I know Paula - she will like it there and leave our group."
I couldn't understand why they talked like that. So I said, "What are you saying? I could never leave you."
She laughed and said, "You'll see if I'm wrong." After that, nothing else was said.
Sunday morning came and it was our turn to have everyone at our house. They came, and, of course, I was asked if I was going to go with Aunt Dot. I answered, "Yes." They said they would positively pray for me.
The Wilson's came and picked me up. They introduced me to the supervisors of their departments, Mr. and Mrs. Hoffman, who seemed to be nice people. Then I was introduced to the other teachers, who were very pleasant.
After the children got to their classes, Sunday School began. Aunt Dot's class had never heard such a testimony as mine before. You could have heard a needle drop. As soon as the class was over, Aunt Dot could hardly wait to get me out of there and to the main services, without telling me what she was doing. The building was packed that Sunday morning, but she and Uncle Scoop did not hesitate to take me all the way to the front, saying, "We don't want you to miss a thing." I think we sat in the second row, which did not make me feel too comfortable, but that did not last for long.
The clapping of hands was unfamiliar to me
The services started with singing; with this I was familiar. But then the clapping of hands began, which was unfamiliar to me, and yet I did not resent it; I liked it and clapped with them. The song leader said, "Let's all enter into praise," and they all began to praise God. I had to look throughout the congregation to make sure I was not in a synagogue. I could have sworn they worshipped God with the same sound. And the church did not look to me like a church, but merely a place where God's people got together to worship Him in unity. The praise was united as one voice, and yet about 3,000 voices in one! It reminded me of the song, "Oh, For A Thousand Tongues to Sing My Great Redeemer's Praise."
Then this woman preacher, Mrs. M. D. Beall, began to preach. Being warned of her, I had mixed emotions, for in most churches - it is forbidden for women to teach men, or for women even to open their mouths in church. They are to keep silence (I Timothy 2:11-14); and most men feel strongly about keeping this rule. Yet, I could not believe what came out of Mrs. Beall's mouth! Listening to her, I did not see a woman preacher: I heard only the voice of God! Especially when I heard her say, "Come out from among them and be ye separate," says the Lord (II Corinthians 6:17). I thought God spoke only to me! and now I heard another woman hear from God like I did. When I heard her say, "Come out from among them..." I thought my eardrums were going to burst! I wondered how she knew what I myself had been thinking lately.
Then as I was sitting there, I heard myself saying, "My sheep hear my voice, but a stranger they will not follow." (John 10:3-5)
The service was over and Dot and Scoop asked how I liked it. I told them how this place reminded me of a synagogue and they laughed. When I got home, I told Rubin the same thing, and that I liked this woman pastor. Furthermore, I said that I did not see any difference, for I heard God speak through her to me. And that was it! No more questions...!
We continued with the meetings in our homes, but sure enough, it was not the same. There was a change in me. A terrible restlessness set in - in my spirit. I think it was on a Wednesday night or Thursday, a few of us went to the November Seminar that was being held at Bethesda. I remember Rev. Green there was speaking about the baptism of the Holy Spirit. As far as I was concerned, I was already baptized. When I told the group at the Seminar about this dove sitting on my shoulder, they told me that's what it was. They pointed to the place in the Bible where the same thing happened to Jesus when He was baptized in the Jordan River (Matthew 3:16).
After reading that account, I had no questions about it. Of course, I heard Rev. Green refer to Acts 2, about how 120 people were filled with the Spirit and spoke in different tongues. Then he pointed to Cornelius' household in Acts 10, and I began to question the whole thing! He then closed his message by asking, "Who among you is questioning the baptism of the Holy Spirit?"
My hand went up like a bolt of lightning I think I was the only one, for he told me to come forward. I went forward and stood with my face to the platform wall and started talking to God. I couldn't imagine myself speaking with an unknown tongue. After a little while, I heard Dot coming up with Patricia Gruits. They began to pray with me. As they were praying, I continued to ask, "How can this be?" But not for long.
I suddenly became very quiet and Patricia said, "The anointing is all over her. She is being baptized with the Holy Ghost."
I began to whisper in a language I had never spoken before
As she was saying this, and though she could not see my face, I began to whisper in a language I had never spoken before. I turned and saw more than the two there, and I just loved them so much that I couldn't refrain from hugging all of them; yet I did not know any of these people except Aunt Dot. I could not stop bubbling. I could see a great river that had been stopped by some obstruction for a long time. But all of a sudden it erupted and had to gush out, and nothing could stop it, because of this mighty force!
We went home to get some sleep. I arose in the morning and was not too satisfied, because I still just whispered and was unable to express myself orally the way I wanted to. I went about doing what had to be done. Then when the house was quiet, I entered the bedroom, closed the door, knelt down by my bed, and asked God to enable me to speak this heavenly language clearly. Then I waited. It did not take long. I think only a minute, before this river came forth! I not only spoke, but I sang in that language I had no more questions after that. Praise His Holy Name!
It did not take too long after that until our group began breaking up. It was decided to have meetings during the week, but the Sunday meetings were being dropped, except for a few who still met on Sunday. We were a part of that few, until the Easter convention at Bethesda.
When the Wilson's asked Rubin if he would like to go with them to one of the meetings during the week, Rubin told them he would. They picked him up on Monday morning. When he came home, he was all lit up with excitement, telling me he was going to go with them the rest of the week. In the middle of the week, he heard Rev. McAllister from Toronto. God spoke through this man to Rubin in such a way that Rubin had no doubt God wanted us at Bethesda. After Rubin came home that day, he said, "Honey, you are right, God wants us there."
I said, "It is up to you."
The home meetings were over. Sunday came and we got ready to be on time for Sunday school at Bethesda. Our first Sunday School experience was in the young-married class. Herb Moos was the teacher. The first lesson was on water baptism. For some reason, Rubin was irritated because of the way Herb presented the lesson. I asked Rubin, "Why are you angry?"
Rubin answered, "Because he makes you feel as if you were not baptized."
I said, "Why should it bother you? You know we were baptized."
After that, everything was fine, until a few Sundays later, when Herb taught about water baptism again, but not exactly in the same way. When he said that one must be baptized into the name of Jesus Christ, and not the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost - I became really angry. Rubin asked me, "What is the matter with you?"
"What do you do with a person whom God baptized with the Holy Ghost after they were baptized into the TRIUNE God?"
I told him that I could not wait until the class was over so I could talk with Herb. When the class was over, I asked brother Moos, "What do you do with a person whom God baptized with the Holy Ghost after they were baptized into the Triune God?"
Brother Moos turned to Acts 10, to the scripture describing what happened at the house of Cornelius, and how, afterward, they were all baptized into Christ. I thought to myself, "Yes, they were all Gentiles, and that sign had to be given to Peter by God, otherwise, Peter would not have seen that God showed no partiality between Jew and Gentile."
After that, I was fully satisfied that God had already done the work of baptism with Rubin and me. We went down to the main service. A prophecy came forth from the platform, "Sing, 0 barren that did not bear; break forth into singing, and cry aloud, you that did not travail with child: for more are the children of the married wife, says the LORD." (Isaiah 54:1) I could not contain myself and began to cry and cry. I tried to stop but could not.
Rubin whispered to me, "What is the matter with you?"
I answered, "I do not know. I have to get out of here. I cannot stop crying."
During that week, we had some of our first group over for an evening get-together. We sat around the table having some refreshments and sharing God's goodness, when one person suggested having a time of prayer around the table. We all agreed, although I had no intention of praying. But as we began to sing and then go into prayer, I felt different. I heard myself asking God to cut away this stony heart and give me a heart of flesh. (Ezekiel 11:19)
Everyone left and we went to bed, but I could not fall asleep. I asked myself, "Why did I pray like that? That work had already been done when I was first baptized, yet I prayed like the work was not yet done." The Lord was reminding me about His discourse with Nicodemus concerning the new birth. (John 3:1-8) I cannot enter the Kingdom of God unless I am baptized in the name of Jesus Christ (Acts 2:38), and no other name (Acts 4:,12); for in Him rests the Godhead bodily (Colossians 2:9). He is the surgeon, cutting away the invisible stony heart (Ezekiel 36:26), which is so hateful and rebellious (Jeremiah 5:23), that God cannot write His law upon it. Jeremiah says, "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it? I the Lord search the heart..." (Jeremiah 17:9,10a)
After this reminder, I got out of bed and wrote the Lord a letter, as usual, in my diary: "Dear Lord Jesus, If you want me to be baptized into You because You have not yet cut away this stony heart, I will obey, but I want this confirmed that it is You speaking to me. I ask it in Thy Holy Name. Amen."
A week later, we had some unexpected visitors from Bethesda come to the house, people with whom we had made friends: Bob and Doris Gay. They said the reason they came over was because the Lord had burdened them for Rubin's need to see the truth in water baptism for circumcision of the heart. Bob began showing Rubin scripture after scripture and Rubin was doing the same, showing how God had already done the work in him. I just sat quietly on the couch, not thinking anything of it, when all of a sudden the thought came to me about that letter I wrote to the Lord, asking for confirmation.
I listened some more and saw how Rubin was rejecting everything they said, and yet I was receiving it, without saying a word. My heart started pounding like crazy! I couldn't remain silent any longer. I jumped up and said, "You did not come to see Rubin! God sent you to me! A week ago, I wrote a letter to the Lord asking Him about the very things you are telling Rubin! I am going to read the letter to you so you will see it for yourselves!" When I read the letter to them, they just couldn't get over it. I was so happy - I kissed Bob! And Doris has never forgotten that evening.
They came over on a Monday and the following Wednesday night I was baptized. I asked Rubin if he too would be baptized with me, but he would not hear of it. I told them maybe I should wait so we could be baptized together. Bob said, "No. We have to work out our salvation with fear and trembling." (Philippians 2:12) When I agreed with him, arrangements were made for me to be baptized that Wednesday night in Bethesda's baptistery.
Wednesday morning came and I was becoming very excited. I tried to call the Wilson's to tell them to pick me up for the evening service, but I was unable to reach them. They did not know what was transpiring. It was after supper. I cleaned up the kitchen and decided to take a nap, but was unable to do so. All kinds of thoughts went through my mind: "What will this one say and the other one? Rubin doesn't even want to see me being baptized for he does not see God in it ..." I got real good and angry, and said, "I don't care if the whole world is against me as long as I have God!" I jumped off the bed and began to dress for church. The telephone rang at the same time. It was the Wilson's, asking if I were going to church with them? Of course, they were delighted to hear the purpose of my going to church that night.
Rev. James Beall (one of Mary D. Beall's sons) interviewed me that night. I told him how I heard myself asking God to circumcise my heart, and so on. He said, "Who am I to go against the Holy Ghost?"
As I was walking into the baptistery, I knew without a shadow of a doubt that Jesus Christ would perform the operation of circumcision on my heart. (Romans 15:8) But he had to use a vessel of His choosing through whom to perform this act, and He chose Rev. Harry Beall.
There was peace in that water
There was peace in that water. Only God's presence could have created that atmosphere. The congregation sang, "Everybody ought to Know Who Jesus Is." Not realizing it, I sang with them. After I was immersed, the first thing that came out of my mouth was, "I'm free! I'm free!" (John 8:32) Praise the Lord! He did set me free to worship Him in Spirit and in truth! (John 4:23)
I remember how I used to sing worldly love songs, but after I came to know the Lord of lords and the King of kings (Revelation 17:14), and who it is that truly loves me, I could not help myself, but sang unto Him day and night. Yes, even in my sleep. Praise God! I have not stopped singing.
One afternoon, as I was in the kitchen, Nathan (Neddy) had his little boyfriend, Garry, over. As they were playing, Garry said to him, "My mom sings love songs."
Nathan said, "But my mom sings love songs to Jesus all the time, not like your mom!"
This was the first time it really dawned on me that Nathan knew the difference. I had never told him about my experience, especially about Jesus Christ the Baptizer, for Nathan was only about six years old, and yet so sensitive to the things of God.
One time, I was asked to go to a prayer meeting at a Presbyterian Church in the evening to speak to them. Of course, Rubin and I took Nathan along. He sat there with his mouth wide open. As we were on the way home, Nathan said to me, "All those bedtime stories you have been telling me, about this little girl, and how Jesus watched over her. Well, it's you, you were that little girl!"
I asked him, "What makes you think it was me?"
Nathan answered, "I remember some of the things you said at the prayer meeting. They were the same as you told me." I had no alternative but to confess.
Not long after God had done this work in me in the waters of baptism, God also revealed Himself as the Baptizer to Rubin. Rubin was baptized for circumcision of the heart and was filled with the Holy Ghost all in the same evening. So now we were both in the New Covenant together. After that, we were received into the fellowship of Bethesda Missionary Temple, where God was to root us in Him by laying the true foundation stones as recorded in Hebrews 6:1-2.
God opened a door and called us into a school of the Holy Spirit (Ministers Candidate School). Every Monday for three years we attended this school. The second year, the truth came to us that we were to be confirmed, so we enrolled in catechism (a study of the Bible). In the same year, the hands of the Presbytery were laid on us and God confirmed to our hearts the ministry and gifts we were to have in functioning as members of His Body.
Since we had two boys of ages requiring babysitters, attending school was not easy. When we received the invitation to attend the Ministers Candidate School, the first thing that came to our minds was the problem of a babysitter. With Rubin not working at a paying job, it was impossible for us to afford a sitter. The only thing for us to do was to commit the whole thing back to God. We prayed. If this was of God - there is no doubt He would provide a sitter for us. After we left it in His hands, God did inform us who the sitter was to be.
I called her up where she worked and told her we were asked to come into the Ministers Candidate School, and would she be willing to babysit for us? The first thing she said was, "Of course, I'd love to." We told her we would not be able to pay her any money. She said, "I know." And that was how God hired Eleanor Albert to be our babysitter every Monday for three years. She received her pay from Him privately. She was a very faithful steward and servant indeed.
Speaking of babysitters, one Thursday evening, on Catechism night, Eleanor was unable to sit. Nathan was nine years old at the time, so I said to Rubin, "Nathan will sit. If God watched over me, and I had no roof over my head, why should we worry? He can sit with Joey." Rubin agreed. I informed Nathan of his job, and he said he would do it.
Just as we were about to leave, Nathan called me to his bed and said, "What am I going to do if I'm afraid?"
I answered, "If this happens, just call on Jesus and you will be O.K."
We were in class that first night and I had peace about it for a little while. Then all of a sudden, I knew that Nathan was afraid. I asked God to bring to his remembrance my instructions. After that I had peace. When we came home, the boys were asleep. In the morning, I asked Nathan if he had any trouble falling asleep.
He answered, "After you left, I was fine. Then when I was about to go to sleep - this terrible fear came over me. I covered my head with my blanket, afraid to look out, when all of a sudden I remembered what you told me to do. I called on Jesus to help me, and it was just like you said: He did help me. I took the cover off my head, I had no fear, and I fell asleep. I will babysit for you every Thursday."
Not long after this experience, God filled him with the Holy Ghost. It happened while I was vacuuming and praising God, singing in the Spirit, not realizing that Nathan was listening while he was playing. He came and asked if he too could sing as I did. He took me by surprise for a second. I did not know what to answer him. Then I asked him, "Do you really mean it?"
He said, "Yes."
I sat down on the chair, had him kneel and lay his head on my lap. I asked God to grant unto him his heart's desire. Before I knew it, he was anointed by the Holy Spirit, and he spoke in a beautiful heavenly language. His eyes were like diamonds, just sparkling. I had the most beautiful child in the world in front of me! A few days later, he received the revelation about what it is to be buried into Christ, and he wanted his heart circumcised. He was very hurt when we told him he would have to wait until he went through the catechism class, and then he could be baptized and confirmed, as it is in Christ Jesus.
No time to be bored
As you can see, our lives were full of excitement, there was no time to be bored. However, after all of this, I began to feel kind of tired. We went to a wedding one Saturday, and as I was standing in the lobby, I became dizzy and fainted. When I awoke, I could not understand my actions. A few nights later, I dreamed that I had a third boy, and said, "Now I have a Nathan, a Joseph, and a David." It was so real that when I awakened I was disappointed it was just a dream.
One month went by. I finally decided to have a checkup. Rubin was sure I was going to have a baby, but I was sure I was not. I just couldn't, not when things were the way they were: Rubin was not working; we had no money to buy anything; I had given all the baby clothes away, knowing for sure that I was through having babies! All kinds of things came to my mind.
The nurse called me in and Dr. Weisberg examined me, but he was unable to tell a thing. Of course, I reassured him that I was not pregnant. But to be sure, he had me give a urine specimen, and then told me to sit in the waiting room for ten minutes. In ten minutes, the nurse called me and said, "Mrs. Agauas, the test shows positive." I asked her what "positive" meant. She answered, "Don't you know, Mrs. Agauas? You're going to have a baby!"
I just could not believe it! I did not want a baby! I was called into the office to see the doctor again. As I was sitting there, I could hardly control myself. Every nerve in my body was irritated. Until I came to Bethesda and met Helen, I never knew or heard of retarded children. I quite often remarked to Helen, who had a retarded boy, "How happy I am that I had never seen this before I had my boys. I would have been scared stiff to become pregnant!" All these things came to my mind.
All of a sudden I became very quiet and these words came to me: "I am the Lord who opens the womb and I am the One who closes the womb."
All the anxiety left me. Instead, it was replaced with such joy that I could have jumped to the ceiling! With the knowledge that this baby was of the Lord, I was not to be afraid!
When the doctor came in he found me a different person, but he looked worried. I asked him, "What is the matter?"
He replied, "You know you are pregnant. This is really your fourth pregnancy, and your being R.H.Negative makes it not very good. You had a miscarriage in your fourth month, after Nathan was three years old, remember? I'll have to watch you very closely, and you will have to be very careful."
If I had not heard what I did from my first Physician, Jesus, I would have been scared stiff at what I heard from Dr. Weisberg. All the fears I had he would have confirmed! What a God we have! Praise His Holy Name!
The days and weeks went by, some were good and some bad. Some were so bad I thought I was going to die, or that the baby was going to die, or both. But one morning, as I was walking up from the basement, this thought came to me, "You shall have a perfect child."
I was in my seventh month and hardly showed. I told a lady I often talked with in the church lobby that I was going to have a baby. She looked at me and was not joking when she said, "You are not pregnant. If you are - it's probably just a tumor!" I assured her, but she did not believe me.
After that, I began thinking in that area, but the word came back to me, "You shall have a perfect baby." From the beginning until the time I entered the hospital, I was kept by the Word of God.
The Ministers Candidate School planned a surprise baby shower for me, two weeks before I was due. (Personally, I never liked baby showers before the baby was born. This was probably because it's a Jewish superstition that it's bad luck to plan anything for a baby who was not yet born.) I, of course, did not know a thing about the shower. Instead, I surprised them! The baby came Sunday morning, and the shower had been planned for the following Monday. Rubin called me Tuesday morning to tell me about it, and how he'd had to be the embarrassed recipient of the baby gifts. Of course, they had mercy on him and had him open only a few of the gifts. As for the rest of the gifts, he decided to bring a few each day to the hospital. So every day for eight days I had gifts to open.
The reason I stayed that long in the hospital was because of the terrible headaches I was having. They continued for five weeks. The Wilson's cared for the family and me all that time, without our having to pay them a penny. They did it all as unto the Lord. (Colossians 3:23) I can say that they were our spiritual parents. The Word of God declares, "God shows no partiality." (James 3:17) The Wilson's were a perfect example of it. No matter whom they would have over to their house, they would entertain them royally.
Because of the Wilson's, we met quite a few nice people. One of them was Bernice Vedane from Pontiac, Michigan, a schoolteacher. She too became part of us. I would say she was like an older, protective sister. She understood me in every respect. For two summers, she took us out to Forester, Michigan, where she had a house right on Lake Huron. At that time, Joseph was one year old and Nathan was six. She did everything for us so I could have proper rest. I felt as if God had sent her down from heaven to serve us in such a royal way. The children and Rubin and I had a heavenly time. We were hoping this could go on every summer, and so did Bernice. But she was a widow, and, not having a husband to look after the place, she had to sell it. It didn't take long before it was sold.
One morning, I received a call from Bernice telling me she was going to give me her 1961 Ford, that is, if I wanted it. I could not believe my ears! She had to repeat herself. The only thing that worried her was that it had a standard shift. I had never learned to use a standard shift, but she said it would take only two lessons for me to learn. I took it out by myself after only one lesson. Bernice told me afterward that God had burdened her for me, that I needed a new car, because the one I was driving was not safe. She told the Lord that if He sent her a buyer for the property she would give me the car. She not only gave me the car, but since it was my birthday it had a ribbon on it. She also presented me with a Duncan Phyfe, five-piece dining room set, which I did not have. In addition, she gave me a chest and desk combination. Who can tell me that He is not the Lord Who provides? (Genesis 22:13)
Today, Bernice's name is Mrs. Harold Smock. She married her former brother-in-law, after she retired from teaching. She now lives in Sarasota, Florida, where she takes care of a very sick husband. Nevertheless, I see the keeping power of God in her life.
A third son was born to us
A third son was born to us, just as in the dream, and we named him David Michael Agauas. We had no choice, since he was already named before his birth. I even had the privilege and experience of knowing how a mother feels by breastfeeding a child. This way proved wonderful for four months, until "mother nature" cut off the supply. Just as he had been inactive when I carried him, so was David slow in developing. He was eight months old and did not know how to hold his own bottle, or reach out his hand if anything was being given to him. But I loved him anyway. It seems as the love I had for him took away my fears and anxiety. One Sunday morning, when I took him to the church nursery, this sweet lady said to me, "You know, Mrs. Agauas, David lays on his back and does not know how to turn over, and his legs look crooked." I just looked at her as if she were not even talking to me.
He had turned 16 months old already but was very slow in walking. Then I began to think. One morning, as I was in the kitchen, with David sitting in his highchair, I began to get very angry, seemingly for no reason. I remembered what God had said to me: that David would be a perfect child. But looking at the child, I saw no perfection; something was not developing right. I was angry with God, saying, "You told me he would be perfect, that nothing would be wrong with him. Why is he so slow? His mentality is not that of a 16 month old child!"
Before I had a chance to say anything else, I began to shake from head to toe. My hands burned like fire. As I looked at them, this word came to me: "I am the Resurrection."
"Yes, Lord, you are the Resurrection," I said, as if I had never heard of it before.
While I was still looking at my hands, I was directed to lay them on David's head and say, "In Jesus' mighty name, I command every brain cell to be restored and develop as it was meant to be, so that every part of this body will function right!"
I took my hands off his head, not fully realizing what had taken place. I just praised God for revealing Himself to me as the very Resurrection and completely forgot about David. I would have had to be blind not to acknowledge what was happening. David got down from the highchair and started walking, as though he had walked for six months. He looked and responded in every way like God said he would. God had allowed these things that I might learn Him as the Resurrection! God not only resurrected the child but also resurrected the whole household! He literally opened the windows of heaven!
After seven years of his unemployment, I was getting very irritable having Rubin around me. One morning, as I was making the bed, I told the Lord it was about time Rubin got a job and got out of my hair! I was becoming a cripple in my own kitchen, with Rubin wanting to tell me how to boil water! As I was in this state of mind, the telephone rang. It was a friend, John, asking for Rubin. He said to me, "Mr. Gruits wants him to come to the Bethesda's church press, for there is some work for him."
I asked John, "How did you know what I was just telling God?"
John said, "What?"
Rubin was out, probably visiting with the Wilson's, when the call came. When Rubin came home, I informed him about the telephone call. He was ecstatic about it, and could not wait to get to the church! Little did I realize that he too, not knowing what to do with himself anymore, felt as I did. Yet, God said He will not suffer us to be tempted above that we are able to bear. (I Corinthians 10:13) Of course, Rubin did whatever work there was to be done, without being particular about what was required of him.
A few months later, John took Rubin to see a house that was for rent in Warren, Michigan. Rubin called me and told me about a seven-room place we were going to move into. He asked me to come look at it. I called Bernice and she went with me. We then rented the house on Packard in Warren. It was like a palace, in contrast to the five room flat we were living in at the time. Then not too long after we moved, Rubin was employed by Bethesda full time. That enabled us to get off the Social Security Disabled Pension and live like normal people.
Nathan turned twelve and was confirmed. We were able to give him a confirmation party, a true Bar Mitzvah. A week later, we had cousins in from New York. We were so happy that we had room for them to stay with us.
Two years later, my sister Ann's daughter, Helen, came to visit us from Israel. When I last saw my niece - she was in Germany, and only six months old. Now, she was 21 years old! I knew of her coming, but I did not know if her mother had told her anything about my beliefs. She turned out to be well informed. She loved to hear about everything, and God revealed Himself to her. Before she left to return to Israel, God met her in the water of baptism and we were able to worship Him together under the same roof. I gave her an English-Hebrew Bible. She was hesitant to take it with her, for fear of her father, so I told her to give it to the Wilson's, who were now living in Israel. The Wilson's first met Helen when they went with us to the airport to pick her up. While Helen was still in the United States, the Wilson's left for Israel and were staying in Netanya, where Helen's parents live. The Wilson's ministered to my family and were very much loved by them.
Helen felt better upon her arrival in Israel. She gave the Bible to the Wilson's and did not say a word to her father about what had taken place in her life. I had instructed her not to do so, unless God opened that door of utterance. Sure enough, God did open that door, and Helen told her father. But he instructed her not to tell a soul!
Visiting Israel seemed impossible
After a year, Eleanor Albert began to make plans to take a trip to Israel. She came over to the house, wishing I could go with her. I told her it would be nice, but impossible. I left it at that. I'd had a desire to visit Israel for 21 years, in order to see my sisters and their families, but I knew it would be impossible because of our lack of money. And who would take care of the family, with David being only three and a half years old?
One afternoon, I was resting, with my eyes shut, and just about to doze off. This word kept coming to me: "Without faith it is impossible to please God," (Hebrews 11:6) as if I were hearing it for the first time. Yet, I had heard it before and knew it was in the Bible. I asked Rubin if he knew where to find it, but he was not sure. I wondered why this word was coming to me now. I wasn't having any problems that would require this word. I tried to put it out of my thoughts, but was unsuccessful, until I saw it for myself in the Bible. After that I received peace.
A few weeks went by. Eleanor came over to go with us to the 50th wedding anniversary of our pastor, M. D. Beall. As we were on the way, Eleanor again expressed her desire that I come with her to Israel. Rubin asked her how much the trip would cost. Eleanor told us it would cost about $400-500 round trip, including the fare from Detroit to New York and back.
Rubin then said to me, "Honey, why don't you go?"
I thought that's what I heard him say, so I asked, "You really mean it?" And I knew by the way he answered that he meant it! I was doing the driving, but it was as if I was flying! I knew right then and there that I was going to Israel, I had no doubt about it. Eleanor was just beside herself with joy over the decision.
After coming home and going to bed, I found myself just lying there, unable to sleep. You see, I had come down to earth and all that excitement turned into anxiety and worry: What am I going to do for money? I don't have it. Who is going to drive Rubin to work for two weeks while I am gone? Who is going to take care of them, especially David? As far as I was concerned, the trip was off! I tried to sleep, but it was impossible with all these worries. Then my spirit was eased as this word came to my remembrance: "Without faith it is impossible to please God."
Of course! God had given me this word before, and, for the life of me, I had not understood why! But now it was clear to me why He had given me that kind of word. Then I became offended at Him, saying, "Haven't I been living by faith all this time? Don't I have a right to worry and wonder about the impossibilities of such things?"
Then I answered myself, "Yes, and so do many others. But the word does declare that 'the heart of man is deceitful and desperately wicked, who knows it, but the Spirit who searches the heart." (Jeremiah 17:9-10)
After God brought back the Word to me in such force the Word was not just a word anymore, but a searchlight into my own heart. I felt I should have just buried myself alive, but praise God for the power of the Blood! After I ate of the Word and digested it, I had no more trouble going to sleep.
I was awakened when Rubin telephoned me to pick him up from work (he worked nights). The first thing he said was, "I have it all worked out. The two weeks vacation I'm supposed to get in July - I will take in September, while you are gone. That way we will have no problems."
I said, "Now why didn't I think of that?" Then I asked him, "What are you going to do about the money?"
Rubin answered, "I will take a loan from the bank. Our credit is good, you know." Everything he said seemed right, except borrowing from the bank. I felt a check. I could not see paying interest on that money, and felt that such a move could not be of God. I told him my feelings and left it. I had the passport pictures taken and applied for a passport, which arrived in three weeks. The only thing missing was the tickets. I called Eleanor to find out when I would need to give her the $100 for the deposit, so Rubin would know how much to borrow from the bank. Eleanor said, "I will lend you the money for this trip. Why pay interest? You just pay me back as you can." That's all I had to hear. The way was cleared.
Until then, I had not informed my sister of my plans to come, so I wrote her an airmail letter with much excitement. Then I was really on my way, making full preparations for that God-given trip. On September 7, 1970, I was on my way to Israel on El-Al Airlines. We were flying during the hijackings, but we had peace, knowing the trip was of the Lord. We were three hours late arriving in Tel-Aviv, but it was all worth it. The Wilson's brought my two sisters, and my niece, Helen, and her brother, David. After not seeing them for 22 years, we had quite a reunion!
It was 12 midnight when we arrived in Netanya. It took only half an hour from Tel-Aviv. My brother-in-law, Helen's father, was still up. I guess he had expected to see a great change in me, for he kept saying, as he was hugging me, "The same Paula. We thank God for the same, happy Paula." In his eyes, I even looked as young as when he last saw me 22 years ago, when I was 15 years old.
Eleanor and I were very, very tired, so we all went to sleep. We were awakened by someone beating on a carpet outside a window at 4:00 AM. The sun was already out. My sister's place, on the fourth floor, had no screens in the windows, just shutters, and yet no flies came in. The sky was so very clear. I felt as if the whole world and its problems were behind me, and I was taken up into a completely new atmosphere.
The morning started with my brother-in-law leaving for work at 5 AM; at 8 AM my niece, Helen, left for work and my nephew, David, went to school. It was his last year in high school. David's whole personality was just like my son Nathan's. Eleanor and I had breakfast. Then we asked Genia, my sister, to take us down for a walk. The air was breathtaking. At this time in the United States, most of the flowers had lost their bloom, but here it was just like spring. The weather there was like mid-summer here. I went swimming in the Mediterranean Sea. It was my first experience to swim in salty water. After I got out, I just couldn't wait to go home and take a shower, for I was full of salt. I also went swimming at a place called "Sach-na." There the water was so soft I was scared stiff to let myself go into it. I just set myself down on a rock with my feet in the water and the little fish nibbled at my toes.
The scenery was just beautiful. It reminded me of the story in the Bible, when the daughter of Pharaoh found Moses in the basket, where she and her maidens were swimming (Exodus 2:5). This was how I visualized it as I was sitting there, watching some of the swimmers jumping off the high cliffs into that warm, soapy-like water.
I also arrived just in time for my oldest sister's grandson's Pidyon Haben (Dedication to God of the first-born son). It was a beautiful celebration. The son of Ann, my older sister, was also named Nathan, after our father. Ann's son, Nathan, had married a very nice girl. Nathan's wife was full of hospitality, preparing a beautiful dinner the first Saturday we were there. In fact, at every place we were taken by my sisters - the first thing we were offered was food, and you just had to eat it!
The Wilson's took us around to all the places we wanted to see. And, by the way, money was no problem for me. After we came back from the walk that first day, we had lunch and took a nap. While Eleanor and I were sleeping, my two sisters had to attend to some business in Tel-Aviv. When we awakened, they had already come back. They were full of excitement as they told me, "We have been waiting for eight years for this money to be released to us from the German Government Claims. Because you, Pesia, are such a miracle, God had to send you before we could get that money!"
I remembered that about nine years ago they did send me some papers to sign concerning that money, but I had not wanted any part of it. I thought to myself, "Let them have it ... " and never gave it another thought. I arrived in Israel and that money was following me! The very next day, my sisters handed my share of 600 Pounds to me. I wanted them to have it, but they would not hear of it. I felt like Cinderella for two weeks. I did not have to count my pennies. I had money for gifts to bring home, gifts for my family and friends. (I bought for Rubin a beautiful "Cat's Eye" gold ring, which he loved to show off). The $200, which I had brought with me as spending money, I didn't even have to touch and brought it all back home. Only my Lord could have planned this trip so perfectly for me. When we first left for Israel, the Lord had an Arab take me and Rubin and the boys to the Detroit Metropolitan Airport, and we sang praises to God on the way. When I arrived home from Israel, an Arab brought my family to pick me up from the airport. So in God, there is no Jew or Gentile, or Jew or Arab, but we are all one in Christ Jesus. (Galatians 3:28)
After two weeks, being away from the children, it was mighty good seeing them again, even though while I was in Israel I'd forgotten I had a family. I felt very single! Rubin was very happy to see me back, for he did have a few scares about the hijacking of the planes that was going on. That too worked for good (Romans 8:28), for I had a new husband who was full of appreciation! God knows, from the beginning to the end, what is good for an individual.
Before I went to Israel, Rubin and I were talking about looking for another place to live, because our landlords to the utmost were trying us. For example, they called us up on the telephone one evening and gave us two weeks' notice that they were raising our rent $40, stating that if we didn't like it - we would just have to move. Yet, we know God allowed this too. Of course, we were not prepared for an extra $40 in two weeks. A sister in the Lord handed me an envelope containing $20 toward that rent. I had told her about the raise, but with no intention of getting any help from her. She said it was not her idea, but her friend's idea to give us $10, so she added the other $10. That money was not just from them, but a sign to me from God that he would provide. I had peace about it to the point where I was able to pray for the landlords and not despise their actions. The thought of renting again, after this experience with the landlords, made me sick. I just knew deep down in my heart that when we moved to this place that it would be the last place we were going to rent.
The winter months were over and Memorial Day weekend came. The weather was very nice. Rubin was sleeping because he worked nights. I went over to our Egyptian neighbors, who had moved next door to us while I was in Israel. I asked Isis, the lady of the house, if she would like to take her family and come with me to Toepfer Park. She asked her husband, Sabry, and he thought it was a good idea. As we were sitting in the park talking, Isis said, "Paula come, let's take a ride in front of the park on MacArthur street. There is a house there my friend wants to buy. I want you to look at it."
We got the children together and went to see that house. When we stopped, I saw this real estate sign. I said to Isis, "You cannot go into this house. You have to make an appointment."
Then she said, "Why don't you buy this house? It has everything you want in it: four bedrooms, a basement, garage, and so on."
"I could never afford this house"
I said, "Isis, are you crazy? I could never afford this house."
Isis got out of the car and ran to ring the bell. Sure enough, this man came out and motioned to us to come in! We had no choice. When I entered the front room and looked in, I just couldn't believe my eyes! As I walked through the house, (especially when I saw the same hair spray that I used standing on the vanity), I had no doubt that the house would be ours. It was a bungalow house, the kind I had been wanting since we were married (18 years). The house was owned by a retired couple. They were selling it so they could buy a trailer in Florida,
I asked them, "How much money do you want for a down payment?"
They said, "Nothing, just closing costs, for it's being sold on an FHA Mortgage." He, Mr. Van Huly, told me just to go over to this real estate office and give a deposit on the house.
I went home. Rubin was still asleep. When he woke up, he was not in a good mood, so I didn't mention the house. The following morning, after I picked him up from work, I asked him, "Would you like to see this house that I looked at yesterday?" He agreed, so I took him there. He didn't even have to see the inside. He wanted to run right over and give a deposit on that house.
Of course, he did look through it. Mr. Van Huly told us that he had already called the real estate office, informing them about us. That day we knew the house was ours! But after talking to the agent and he told us of our chances, we had a few doubts. So I said, "You'd better pray with us," and we left. As we walked out of there, I thought to myself, "We did not yet get a positive Word from God concerning this house."
We got in the car and as I was driving, this word came to me: "I am the Lord who rules in men's affairs."
I said to Rubin, "I got a word concerning the house."
He asked, "What is it?" When I told him, he said, "The house is ours."
On July 29, 1971, we signed the papers and the house was ours. In the first week of September, we occupied it. It was exactly one year before that date God had sent me to Israel. Yes, without faith it is impossible to please Him, for He is a rewarder of them that diligently seek Him. (Hebrews 11:6) We didn't even have to take the children out of school, because we were still in the same school district.
We are situated across from a park and only five minutes from Bethesda Church. After 19 years of marriage, not knowing what it was like not having someone living over you or under you, we are now experiencing what it feels like to live in a private dwelling. What a palace!
My prayer is: "Lord, make us epistles read and known of all men. (II Corinthians 3:2) Not by what we say, but by our lives. And may this dwelling place be a lighthouse filled with temples of the living God. Amen."
This earthly dwelling place that the Lord has supplied is nothing compared to the vision He gave me in my night's sleep about 12 1/2 years ago: I was on a ship, and in it were many compartments filled with people. But something happened to it. We were unable to go on. I jumped off and proceeded to swim toward the shore for help. But I was running out of strength, as the waves grew too big for me to swim over them. From nowhere, I suddenly had someone on each side of me, helping me along, as if I was being carried over the waves. And in a little while, they let go of me, and I was able to swim on my own, while they talked with me. Of course, I told them why I was swimming to this shore.
We reached the shore, and what did I see but houses with their doors wide open. I said to my helpers, "It's night and the people are asleep. Why don't they shut their doors?"
They answered, "Why, there are no thieves here, nor anyone to fear, for everyone loves one another."
The flowers in front of the houses were just breathtaking. Then, in front of us, I saw lambs, lions, and all kinds of animals together. I asked, "How can this be?"
As I questioned, a lamb came up to me and greeted me. I said to the ones on each side of me, "I do not want to go back. It is so peaceful here. The water is so fresh and it smells so good. I want to live here forever."
The helpers said, "Did you forget why you came here? The people on that boat depend on you to save them. Now, go back to them for they need you. After you have done the job - you will come back."
The only comment I can make about
this is what the Word of God declares: "The just shall
live by faith." (Romans 1:17)
If you would like to contact me, please write to:
Warren, Michigan 48089 U.S.A.
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