Born: July 9, 1928
Helen was one of seven children born to a Jewish family in Volosyanka, a town in Trans-Carpathian Ruthenia. Nestled in the Carpathian mountains, Volosyanka was a small town with a sizable Jewish community. Jewish life revolved around the town's synagogue. Helen grew up in a close-knit family; many relatives lived nearby. Her father owned a shoe store in the town.
1933-39: When Helen was 11 years old, Hungary occupied the Transcarpathian region. At once, Jews were prohibited from holding government positions, and beaten and arrested, often for no reason. The Hungarians closed their synagogue and prevented them from attending school. Worshiping was done secretly because any Jewish gathering was illegal. Helen's grandfather, fearing for the safety of the synagogue's Torah scroll, secretly brought it home.
1940-44: In 1944 the Germans occupied Helen's town. Jews were ordered to wear a Jewish star, rounded up and sent to the Uzghorod ghetto. There, the Germans discovered the scroll her grandfather was hiding. They took him to the center of the ghetto, and after beating him, cut off his long white beard. A week later, her family was deported to Auschwitz. Her grandfather was beaten and thrown in a truck because he wouldn't give up his Torah scroll. Helen was assigned to a forced-labor brigade in a Nazi munitions factory in a different camp.