Oral History

Ruth Berkowicz Segal describes receiving visa to leave Lithuania

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.


Well, when the first people started going across to... to Japan, uh, we applied for an exit visa. You had to not only have a transit visa to Japa -- you know the transit visa was only for ten days -- but oh you also had to get an exit visa from the Soviets. And so, uh, we applied for exit and, um, my two uncles got their visas first and they went with one group. Um, then, uh, there was a room upstairs which we used to visit where the man used to read a list of people who were getting exit visas that day. And one day, um, they mentioned my name, without my father. So I got very upset. I didn't want to go by myself across the Soviet Union and leave my father behind. My mother was in Warsaw with the family. It was no good. And so I said to... I came home and I said to my father, "They read my name. They didn't read your name." And my father said, "Ruthkila, Ruthka, you have to go. You are 18 years old. You are young. You have your whole life ahead of you. You've got to go." And so I decided to go. And I did go. Two weeks later my father came.


  • US Holocaust Memorial Museum
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