Saturday, September 21, 2013

Paul Diamond's Autobiography

This autobiography was written by my grandfather, Paul Diamond, probably around 1980.

I, Paul Diamond, was born in Wolyn, Ukraine, Poland, in the year 1922. We were a family of fine children, two sisters and three brothers.  I went to school and I also attended Yeshiva until 1939.  When I was 17 years old, the Russians entered our area. I went to auto mechanic school for one year; then they assigned me to drive a truck for a hospital.
Paul Diamond

In 1941, when Germany invaded Russia, it started to look very bad for the Jewish people. First, they took away our homes and valuable possessions. Then the Nazis put us in the Ghetto. There was no more school, no more freedom, and we had to do very hard work.
The name of the city was Sienkiewiczowka. I was working as a mechanic and an electrician, and I also worked on a farm. In the Ghetto, I met my future wife, Sonia, then known as Sarah Beitch.  She was a young girl who, like me, was sent to work in the city, on the farms, and to other places. The life in the Ghetto was very hard. We were made to put yellow stars on our clothes, on the back and the front. We were always under the gun and whip.  We were short of food, because the Germans didn't allow the farmers to bring food into the Ghetto. I used to sneak out of the Ghetto at night to bring food back, so that our family wouldn't die from hunger.

By the end of 1942, I was sent outside the Ghetto to a farm to operate a machine. At that time, on the Second day of Chol-Hamoed Succos, the entire Ghetto was liquidated. I wasn't aware of this for three days, until a farmer told me that if I would give him five gallons of kerosene, he would tell me what happened in our Ghetto.  I gave it to him and he told me.

At night I ran away. I came to a Polish family who kept me hidden for two months. Then they asked me to leave, because they were afraid of the Nazis. Then I went to another farmer.  A friend gave me a note from a girl: This was from my wife, Sonia. She was at the farm of another Polish farmer. I knew that man would cause her great trouble, so I went out to try and save her. When I picked her up, she told me that she could get us passports in order to find work; therefore, we would not have to be undercover anymore. We split up and went in different directions.  Sonia gave me a passport with the name, Wasil Miglas, and hers had the name, Marina Kramarenko.

Life was tough without family or home. We were praying to live through each day, and then through each night. We were hoping for a day that we would be free from fears and running. We were looking for a place where we could live in peace.

After Sonia and I got separated, we had found each other, by coincidence, five or six times. We did find work and we worked very hard. At that time, we found out that a few Jewish families were working for the Ukrainians (Benderowtzy) in different fields: tailors, shoe makers, and leather makers. We had found out that soon they were to be killed, so I ran to the village to tell them and to save them.  Not everyone listened to me, so they did not survive. A few of the families did survive. They now live in New York, and Argentina. One of the families, by the name of Katzover, now lives in Jerusalem.

Sonia, I, and a Ukrainian man made an underground bunker. I carried food back to them. Sonia made bread from the flour that we made with our own hands. I fell in love with Sonia.

After the war was over, I came back to my home town. I found out that my sister, Deborah; my brother Dave; and Sonia's mother survived. After a short time, the Russians took me into the army.  I was sent to the front lines in Germany. Dave was sent to fight in Russia. The Katzover family was grateful that I helped them to survive, so they introduced Ben Schuster to my sister, Deborah. They were married when I was in the army. I returned to Lutzk, and together with Sonia and her mother, we left to Poland. We came to Glewice, Obershleizen, where my sister and her husband lived, and we were married.

Paul Diamond's Temporary Passport, Issued by the US Consulate in Munich, 1947
In January of 1945, we crossed the border into Czechoslovakia and and then into Munich, Germany. This was the American Zone. We were then planning to go to Israel (then Palestine). However; at that time, my relatives in America found out about us. They sent us papers and Visas. We came to the United States on April 1, 1947 - Sonia, I, Ben, Deborah and Sonia's mother. The relatives welcomed us with warm open arms. In the beginning, I went to work in Washington. Sonia and her mother both worked in a factory. Between the three of us, we earned "peanuts" because of the language problem. Sonia became sick and then she became pregnant. The family helped us to buy a grocery store. The first store was in South Baltimore. There, our older son Abe, was born on April 2, 1948. We sold the store after nearly two years, and bought a store in West Baltimore, where our two sons, Marvin and Sidney, were born. In 1956, we moved to Highgate Drive, where our daughter, Susie, was born, in 1957.

In the small grocery store, Sonia and I worked long hard hours, seven days a week. In 1951, we became involved with Israel Bonds, the Histadrut, Labor Zionists and other organizations.
Sonia lost her mother in 1951.  In order to keep her mind busy, she and some friends organized the Chana Senesch Chapter of Pioneer Women. After we moved away from the store, it was hard for Sonia to help me as much as when we lived behind the store.

Paul Diamond in one of his stores
Ben was also in a small store.  When they moved, we decided to buy a larger store together. When Dave came to Baltimore, he also had a small store with a partner.  Dave got married in 1955.  When his daughter was born, Dave came in with us as a partner. It was very little business for the three families, so we bought another store and then another. We took in more partners who had lost their stores in 1968. Today we are a large company. We thank G-d for giving us the wisdom, strength, and willingness to work. We are grateful to the Almighty for his chesed (kindness) that he gave Sonia and I such wonderful children and grandchildren here in the States; and our daughter and her family in Israel. We are very lucky to be here in the United States, a land of opportunities and freedom.