Oral History

Flory (Floritza) Jagoda describes seeking refuge in Italy

Flory was born into a Sephardic Jewish family. When Flory was a young girl, her mother moved to Zagreb with Flory's stepfather; Flory joined them after living with her grandmother for two years. In Zagreb, Flory took music lessons and learned how to play the accordion. Germany and its allies invaded Yugoslavia in April 1941, partitioning the country and establishing a fascist regime under the Ustase (pro-German Croatian nationalists) in Croatia. The Ustasa regime soon imposed anti-Jewish regulations in Zagreb; Flory was no longer allowed to attend school, and Jews were forced to wear a badge identifying them as Jews. Flory's family fled Zagreb, finding refuge in Italian-occupied areas and later in the south of mainland Italy. The Allies invaded Italy in 1943. After the Italian cease-fire in September 1943, Flory got a job with American forces in Bari, in southeastern Italy. In June 1945, after the war, Flory married an American sergeant, Harry Jagoda. They settled in the United States.


Finally arrived to a mainland of Italy, two days later. And it was like arriving to a promised land. I mean it, when you saw, when we saw that land. And there were boats all over the place, people coming from all over the place, to Bari, Italy. And the scene that I will never forget was, uh, Italian women dressed in black with big, big, big baskets of grapes, black grapes. And we were hungry. That was great. Anyway, all the refugees came to the piazza [plaza], the middle of the city, and couple of the organization, humanitarian organization, had big tables full of clothes and they took care of our daily needs of bread, but they couldn't find places for you to live. So it became the same situation as when we arrived to Korcula: door to door. The worst was my mother, to live with my mother, that was the worst. I mean she cried about her Mihael. It was impossible. So at the piazza I would say, "You sit with this one and that one," there were so many refugees sitting there. "I will go from house to house, from apartment house, door to door and see if we can find a place to stay." And after walking about six hours, you know, a lot of them had a way of, "Non grazie" [No, thanks] and close the door, you know. Uh, I come to a door, knock on the door and here comes this big heavyset lady all dressed up pretty. And I explained to her my situation. Thank God I had learned Italian. And that I need a room, just my mother and I. And she says, "Si signora, come no, come no. [Yes, madame, of course, of course.] Ho stanza per voi. I have a room for you. Bring your mother." So I ran to get my mother, we come in. And she had a, what we call "salotto," a little living room that was just for her, see, and the couch she gave to my mother, and, uh, two chairs together for me. And we had, this was a start of a new life in Bari. You go to the bathroom, you couldn't get in the bathroom. There were women coming in and out all the time, all night. And we found out she was running a prostitution, house for the prostitution. So, but she was a good woman, I mean, good-hearted lady, see? She shared, okay? And we stayed there a couple of days and kept on looking.


  • US Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection
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