Oral History

Susan Bluman describes obtaining a transit visa from Chiune Sugihara

Susan was 19 years old when Germany invaded Poland in September 1939. Her boyfriend, Nathan, was in Lvov when the Soviet Union occupied eastern Poland. Nathan sent a guide to Warsaw to bring Susan to the Soviet zone of occupied Poland. Her parents reluctantly agreed after Susan promised to return to Warsaw within two weeks. Upon her arrival in Lvov, Susan married Nathan. The couple then fled across the Lithuanian border to Vilna, where they stayed for a year. They received a visa for transit through Japan and left Lithuania in January 1941, traveling across the Trans-Siberian Railroad to Japan. Nathan, an engineer, applied for entrance to Canada, which permitted the immigration of persons with important professional skills. Susan and her husband left Japan for Vancouver, Canada, in June 1941.

Transcript

So finally, when we finally got to Vilna we were happy to get there because here we had the opportunity to get to the consulate and embassies who were representing most of the countries in the world. And we were just going from one consulate to the other, to the embassies, begging, and telling them about our tragic situation. And no one would pay any attention to us. No one wanted us. We were just rejected by all the consulates, by all the embassies. We were desperate, absolutely desperate. We didn't see any hope, absolutely no hope. We just...we were a people with no land, nobody to turn to. And then we heard about Chiune Sugihara, by hearing about other refugees going to his consulate and getting a transit visa, if...if you had a visa, Curacao visa, which is one of the small Dutch islands in the Caribbean. The problem was that I did not have a passport, so my husband had then difficulties putting me on...me on his passport. And then by the time we had all those formalities, the Dutch consul, which was an honorary consul, he already left the city. So we went to the consulate of, the Japanese consulate. And it was my husband who got to see Mr. Sugihara. And he told him about what...what was happening to us. And he already knew about it from other refugees. And despite that we did not have a visa to get somewhere--because transit visa is only to get you somewhere--Consul Sugihara granted us this wonderful visa for life, this transit visa.


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