Oral History

Ruth Berkowicz Segal describes finding her father in Vilna after he fled Soviet-occupied eastern Poland

When German forces invaded Poland in September 1939, Ruth's father fled to eastern Poland. Upon the Soviet occupation of eastern Poland, he fled to Lithuania. Ruth left Warsaw with two friends to find her father and later joined him in Vilna. After Soviet forces occupied Lithuania, Ruth and her father obtained transit visas for Japan, but only Ruth obtained a Soviet exit visa. Her father insisted she leave and not wait for him. Ruth traveled by the Trans-Siberian Railroad across the Soviet Union to Vladivostok. She arrived by ship in Japan; her father and uncles later joined her in Kobe, Japan. Ruth traveled to the United States during the war, on a ship carrying wounded soldiers from the front. Her mother, brother, and sisters perished in the Holocaust.


So, um, I went to Vilnius [Vilna] and this is what happened. I arrived at about four or five in the morning and I had to look for my father in a big city. Um, and it was six o'clock in the morning. I went to a park to eat something. I looked at my knapsack, it was empty. But we had...the only name that I remember...our company in Warsaw, the pickle factory, had a representative in Vilnius who used to do our buying. I remembered his name because I worked for a few months in my father's business while waiting for my visa and my admission to Zurich, to medical school. So I remembered his name. At six, I didn't want to go too early, so at about seven o'clock in the morning I went somewhere, I don't know where, to a hotel, somewhere, to look at the telephone book. And I found his name. I called him up. I said, "I am Ruth Berkowicz. I am the daughter of Leon Berkowicz in whose business you have contact with in Warsaw. Did he by any chance contact you because he's supposed to be in Vilna?" And the guy said to me, "Wait ten minutes and I will be with you." And he came and he picked me up, not by car, we didn't have cars. And he contacted me...him...me with my father. That's the only way. If I didn't have his name, I...I mean it's...everything was just touch and go, everything.


  • US Holocaust Memorial Museum
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