Meri and her family lived in Warsaw at the time of the German invasion of Poland. After the invasion, Meri's father fled to Vilna. She joined him there in December 1939. After the Soviet occupation of Lithuania in 1940, Meri's father obtained transit visas through Japan for himself and Meri. He left for Japan first, using a false identity, and arrived there in February 1941. Meri soon followed him. In Japan, Meri and her father obtained visas to enter the United States. American relief organizations arranged their passage to San Francisco. They arrived in the United States in April 1941. Meri's mother remained in Warsaw during the war. She survived in hiding and by using false papers to avoid arrest by the Germans. She was reunited with her husband and daughter in New York after the war.
And we...we were taken by a Polish peasant who lived near the border, German-Russian border, which was formed by the Bug River. And he was supposed to guide us across the river into the Soviet side, where we thought there will not be this kind of a persecution that we would have encountered in, uh, Warsaw. Uh, so he...we...we went by horse-drawn cart to his house. And there we waited in his, uh, home which was a little hut, uh, to cross the river at night. And we were waiting--it was December--and we were waiting for the ice to form on the river so we can walk across the river. There were no bridges there. Well we wa...we started one night, we walked halfway across and the ice gave in. My leg went through the ice. I got all wet and they pulled me out. And we decided...they...the guide actually decided to turn back because there was no point going further, since the ice was very thin.