Sophie was born Selma Schwarzwald to parents Daniel and Laura in the industrial city of Lvov, two years before Germany invaded Poland. Daniel was a successful businessman who exported timber and Laura had studied economics. The Germans occupied Lvov in 1941. After her father's disappearance on her fifth birthday in 1941, Sophie and her mother procured false names and papers and moved to a small town called Busko-Zdroj. They became practicing Catholics to hide their identities. Sophie gradually forgot that she was Jewish. It was not until after their liberation and move to London that Sophie learned the truth about her past.
Somehow I ended up going to Hebrew school once a week on Sundays. It was quite a long walk to the Synagogue. It was St. John's Wood Synagogue. We lived in, on Belsize Road which is in northwest London, Hampstead, near a lot of, many refugees from Europe. There was a huge population, mostly women who were displaced from Austria and from Germany and they lived in one-room, sort of apartments, the whole community there. So we all thought of ourselves as refugees. The term "Holocaust survivor" hadn't been coined yet and we didn't know it was a Holocaust and we all felt that we were refugees from the war. And so that's, that's...so I went to St. John's. I felt very uncomfortable with St. John's Wood Synagogue because I was the only foreigner there, everybody else had grown up and I felt I didn't know the background. You know, I didn't have a normal childhood, I didn't have...I couldn't communicate with the other children because if you don't grow up, you know, community, you don't have a common language really. But, still somehow I picked up the Hebrew and I even got a couple of prizes. And that time my name was still Zofia Tymejko.
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