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Showing Revision 30 created 12/23/2014 by Lettie.

  1. ♪ ♪
  2. I want to say a few words about this film.
  3. If I may, I want to dedicate it
  4. to my old town Brestovitz
  5. who was a thousand years old,
  6. who was a Jewish town
  7. that was wiped off by the Nazis.
  8. The town still exists, but no Jews exist.
  9. And I want to speak about my family
    that perished in the Holocaust,
  10. with all the Jews of Brestovitz.
  11. And I thank my cousin for the opportunity
  12. to give me this chance,
    my cousin Sid Reed.
  13. (Lou) Is that the statement?
  14. (Lou claps)
  15. Ok, that's all.
  16. ♪ ♪
  17. (Shirley) And this is sort of a connection
    of how can life you know?
  18. ♪ ♪
  19. (Lou ) Can you say the name
    of that town again?
  20. (Shirley) Mm?
    (Lou) What's the name of that town?
  21. (Shirley) Brestovitz.
    (Lou) Brestovitz?
  22. (Lou) So you were telling me that
    that's where you grew up?
  23. (Shirley) That's right, that's
    where I was born.
  24. (Lou) What year?
  25. (Shirley) 1909.
  26. (Lou) What month?
  27. (Shirley) April of 1909.
  28. (Lou) So, World War I is when?
  29. It was 1914.
  30. (Lou) To 1920.
  31. To 1920.
  32. (Lou) Ok.
  33. (Lou) Now, were they
    killing the Jews then? You said no.
  34. What?
  35. (Lou) Are they killing the Jews during
    World War I?
  36. No.
  37. (Lou) No.
  38. No. There were programs in some towns
    where they killed the Jews,
  39. but not in our town.
  40. (Lou) Ok. And you were five years old
    World War I starts.
  41. Yes. And I remember it very well.
  42. (Lou) How many brothers
    and sisters did you have?
  43. At that time, I only had
    about three sisters.
  44. (Shirley) My fourth sister and my brother
    weren't born yet
  45. when World War I broke out.
  46. About the war, I could tell you that
    the civilian population
  47. suffers maybe more than the soldiers.
  48. They suffer from lack of freedom.
  49. they suffer from lack of food,
  50. they suffer from the shootings,
  51. the bombs and things that were thrown,
  52. and we had to run every time
    to the Russian church,
  53. because that was a brick church,
    a brick heavy wall.
  54. That was our shelter.
  55. So my mother used to take a blanket,
    with the little tots.
  56. And we would work and sit there
    until the shooting was over.
  57. But there was shooting almost every day.
  58. (Lou) Shooting who?
  59. The Russians were fighting the Germans.
  60. (Shirley) And at that time,
    they were defeated, the Russians.
  61. (Shirley) And the Germans occupied
    our part of the country.
  62. So we had the Germans for four years.
  63. That's what happened during World War I.
  64. (Lou) Okay.
  65. (Shirley) There was shooting every day,
  66. and our house was hit by a bomb.
  67. It didn't explode fully, but I was
    standing with my mother near the table,
  68. and the big thing fell in the table,
    right there.
  69. (Lou) You're joking.
  70. We could have been killed in a moment.
  71. (Lou) What happened?
  72. It just missed us by a few inches.
  73. (Lou) Well did it explode?
  74. It made a big hole in the table,
    it was a heavy table,
  75. so it made a big hole.
  76. (Lou) So it was like a cannonball?
  77. I don't know. We didn't see it.
    (Lou) It didn't explode.
  78. There was part of it
    that remained in the wall.
  79. [Lou laughs]
  80. It didn't come out.
  81. (Lou) This is terrible!
  82. Only part of it hit the house.
  83. ♪ ♪
  84. Those Germans were not the same like the Nazis.
  85. They were civilized people.
  86. What they did is
    they confiscated all the food,
  87. and we didn't have much food to eat.
  88. But all of us, they built a school,
    they built a bathhouse,
  89. they kept this town clean.
  90. It had to be cleaned every day.
  91. They brought in a lot of
    sanitary improvements to that town.
  92. That was World War I.
  93. (Lou) You said they took the food.
  94. They confiscated the food
    from the whole population.
  95. (Lou) Not just Jews?
  96. Huh?
  97. (Lou) Not just Jews?
  98. Not just Jews,
  99. (Shirley) but we didn't have none Jews.
  100. We didn't have many.
  101. We just had a few families.
  102. (Lou) But then, you get to World War II.
  103. At World War II, I was here.
  104. (Lou) How did you get here?
  105. What do you mean how?
  106. Like all the immigrants get.
  107. (Lou laughs)
  108. Right?
  109. ♪ ♪
  110. (Lou) But who decided
    you're the one who's going?
  111. My father.
  112. (Lou) And he said you're going because?
  113. I didn't want to go to America
  114. because I read Upton Sinclair's The Jungle.
  115. And when I read that book, I said,
  116. "I don't like such a country.
    I don't want to go there."
  117. But I went anyway.
  118. (Lou) Who went to Canada with you?
  119. (Shirley) Huh?
  120. (Lou) Who goes on the boat
    with you to Canada?
  121. I don't know.
  122. (Lou) No, I mean, did anyone go with you?
  123. No.
  124. (Lou) Like if Shirley
    went with so-and-so?
  125. I was nineteen years old,
    I went on my own.
  126. (Lou) How many suitcases did you have?
  127. Two.
  128. (Lou) And that was everything.
  129. Yeah.
  130. (Lou) And you didn't speak English.
  131. No. Just a few clothing.
  132. (Lou) What were you thinking at nineteen,
    you were on a boat with two suitcases
  133. going to a country with a language
    you don't speak?
  134. Well, on the boat,
    I wasn't thinking about it
  135. because it was interesting, you know?
  136. But I was thinking about it
    when I came here.
  137. And I was standing
    by the window and crying.
  138. I'll never know English, I'll never
    learn to type. I want to go back.
  139. (Lou) Why did you leave Canada?
  140. I didn't like it either.
  141. I was there six months,
    and I didn't like it.
  142. It was too provincial for me. (laughs)
  143. (Lou) Too provincial? Canada?
  144. Yeah, coming from a small town.
  145. I didn't like it.
  146. (Lou) Coming from a small town in Poland,
    you thought Canada was too provincial?
  147. Too provincial,
    Montreal was too provincial for me.
  148. I didn't like it.
  149. I liked New York when I came here,
    with all the hustle and bustle.
  150. That I liked.
  151. (Lou) So you didn't learn French?
  152. Six months?
  153. (Lou) You're smart.
  154. I bought a mandolin.
  155. (Lou laughs)
  156. And I taught myself
    how to play the mandolin.
  157. (Lou) Oh come on!
  158. (Shirley I taught myself.
  159. (Lou) Who were you living with?
  160. (Shirley) With a family.
  161. (Shirley) I paid so-much
    on so-much a month.
  162. (Lou) You had money with you
    or they mailed the money?
  163. I had a few dollars, I didn't
    have much money with me.
  164. (Lou) So your father made
    these arrangements? He gives you-
  165. But I started working in Montreal.
  166. (Lou) As what?
  167. A dressmaker.
  168. With an old machine that I could work on.
  169. We had a machine in the house,
  170. so I could work on an old machine,
  171. but not an electric one.
  172. And I earned five dollars a week.
  173. And that was enough for board and food.
  174. (Lou) You earned five dollars a week,
  175. Five dollars a week-
  176. (Lou) operating a non-electric
    sewing machine?
  177. Yeah.
  178. (Lou) So what'd you do, with your feet?
  179. Huh?
  180. [Lou taps shoes]
    You do it with your feet?
  181. Yeah.
  182. (Lou) Like in the movies?
  183. Yes.
  184. ♪ ♪
  185. (Shirley) I, how do you say it ?
  186. I went over the border illegally.
  187. They packed me in a car,
  188. and covered me up
    with all kinds of things.
  189. (Lou) Oh Shirley,
    they packed you in a car?
  190. Yes
  191. (Lou) Covered you with all kinds of
    things and drove across the border?
  192. Yes.
  193. (Lou) Like a movie?
  194. We smuggled at night.
  195. It took several hours
    until we reached the border.
  196. (Lou) So you get across the border,
    and where do they go?
  197. They put me into the train
  198. (Lou) What train?
  199. There was a train.
  200. (Lou) A train?
  201. Going to New York.
  202. So they put me on the train,
  203. and I had a mandolin in my hand.
  204. Nineteen years old.
  205. (Lou) You still had the two suitcases?
  206. Huh?
  207. (Lou) I said, you still have
    the two suitcases?
  208. Yeah.
  209. (Lou) And a mandolin?
  210. Yeah.
  211. (Lou) You're carrying by hand?
  212. By hand.
  213. (Lou) You can't be serious,
    you're joking, right?
  214. So the conductor saw a young girl
    with a mandolin, so he took care of me.
  215. All the travel to New York,
    it takes a long time by train.
  216. So he took care of me, you know?
  217. And then when we arrived in New York,
  218. my Uncle Mendel was waiting for me.
  219. (Lou) Your uncle?
  220. Yeah.
  221. Your grandfather.
  222. (Lou) Mm-hm
  223. ♪ ♪
  224. So how did you end up
    in the Garment District?
  225. When I came here,
  226. there was nothing else
    for a new immigrant to do.
  227. There were no other jobs, you know?
  228. This was the only place you could go
  229. and learn a trade.
  230. So I went and I learned a trade.
  231. Who brought you there?
  232. Huh?
  233. Somebody must have brought you there?
  234. My uncle sent me myself,
  235. in New York, to look for the street,
  236. and I found it. (laughs)
  237. You're kidding.
  238. I was enterprising, you know? At nineteen.
  239. - Very!
    - Not now. (laughs)
  240. - But still no English.
    -No.
  241. It took me a few years until
    I started speaking English.
  242. So what did you do there?
  243. You knew fabrics, you told me.
  244. It had nothing to do with my knowing fabrics.
  245. The boss put me next to a man,
  246. and the man was showing me how to work.
  247. And he would say at the end of day,
  248. "You'll never learn how to work."
  249. He said to you,
    that you would never learn?
  250. Yeah.
  251. And I came home, and I used to cry,
    because I'll never learn.
  252. Oh God!
  253. (laughs) But I learned.
  254. You would go home and cry
    because you would never learn?
  255. - Yes, that's right.
    - And in Canada,
  256. you cried cause you
    just couldn't stand being there?
  257. A rough life.
  258. Yeah.
  259. It wasn't an easy life for a
    new immigrant, for a young person.
  260. It was pretty hard.
  261. It sounds terrible.
  262. Yeah.
  263. - But adventurous.
    - But we didn't know any better, you see?
  264. You didn't know any better.
  265. - Right.
    - Okay.
  266. This pillow I embroidered
    when I was fourteen years old. (laughs)
  267. - Oh come on!
    - Yes.
  268. - This pillow?
    - And I kept it hidden all the time-
  269. - You embroidered this at fourteen?
    - Yes.
  270. - This part too? Not this!
    - Yes, the whole thing.
  271. I embroidered this pillow, but
    it's falling apart now.
  272. (Lou) At fourteen! Wait a minute,
    how could you still have it?
  273. (Lou) You brought this in
    one of the two suitcases?
  274. - Yes.
    - You brought a pillow?
  275. Yes. I had several ones.
  276. I had another one, I gave it to Barbara.
  277. She has some of them.
  278. (Lou) I don't understand
    you come over with two suitcases,
  279. and you have two pillows in the suitcase?
    Two pillows in the suitcase?
  280. - Pillows? No.
    - This is a pillow!
  281. But I had it without the pillow,
    I just had the case.
  282. (man offscreen laughs)
  283. The pillow I put in here.
  284. - Oh, you just had the fabric top.
    - Right.
  285. You're a seamstress again now.
  286. Yeah.
  287. And you worked how long at the machine?
  288. - Forty-seven years.
    - Wait a minute.
  289. Wait a minute. You worked for
    forty-seven years? At that machine?
  290. At a machine, not at that machine.
  291. (Lou laughs)
  292. They changed around, you know?
  293. Ok, but that's what you did for 47 years?
  294. Yes.
  295. And how long did you live here?
  296. Forty-six, but I moved here
    when I retired already.
  297. Just so people understand,
    we're in West Chelsea somewhere.
  298. I just worked a few years here,
    and then I retired.
  299. At sixty-six years, I retired.
  300. From this machine?
  301. Did you do the same thing every day?
  302. You know a little about
    the fashion industry.
  303. It's not the same thing.
    Every day it's something else.
  304. - It's fashion.
    - Mm-hm
  305. You did high-end fashion,
    somebody told me?
  306. Yes, I did high fashion.
  307. Liza Minnelli was wearing one
    of our dresses that I made. (laughs)
  308. - Who?
    - Liza Minnelli.
  309. She wore a dress that you made.
    How do you know that?
  310. And I was very proud, I saw it on TV.
    I saw the dress!
  311. And you helped make the dress.
  312. And I used to see our dresses
    in Lord & Taylor in the window.
  313. - Lord & Taylor!
    - Yeah.
  314. ♪ ♪
  315. (Lou) So your parents,
  316. (Lou) I was wondering why they
    didn't go with you to Canada?
  317. I told you, my mother was afraid
    to leave her riches.
  318. - Her riches?
    - Yeah.
  319. They weren't poor people,
    they were middle class.
  320. (Shirley) And she was afraid
    she'd lose her fortune.
  321. Their two sisters were in Palestine,
    and I was here,
  322. so they still had three children there,
  323. two daughters and a son, and my parents.
  324. (Lou) You go away and live, and
    they stay there and die.
  325. Yeah.
  326. (Lou) Is that what happened?
  327. Yeah.
  328. (Lou) The whole family?
  329. The whole family,
    and Hitler took care of them.
  330. ♪ ♪
  331. (Lou) Now you have a sister
    Rochel and Rosa.
  332. (Shirley) Rosa was in Palestine.
  333. (Lou) And Rochel? Rochel? Rachel?
  334. She was in Palestine too,
    the two of them were in Palestine.
  335. (Lou) And how did they get there?
  336. They were Zionists.
    They were pioneers.
  337. (Shirley) They were socializationist pioneers.
  338. (Shirley) So they volunteered, you know?
  339. (Shirley) And they were trained
    to work and live there.
  340. (Lou) So why didn't you go there?
  341. (Shirley) Huh?
  342. (Lou) Why didn't you go there?
  343. I didn't want to go to Palestine.
  344. (Lou) The weather.
  345. (Lou) How come?
  346. Because I wasn't a Zionist.
  347. I don't believe in their theory.
  348. You know what they were
    talking about at that time?
  349. (Lou) Tell me.
  350. To conquer the land, and to conquer
    the work from the Arabs.
  351. But I found my sisters through the Red Cross
  352. and through the Israeli newspaper.
  353. I advertised "my sisters were immigrants
    to Palestine in 1935."
  354. " I never heard of them. If you could
    find them for me, please do."
  355. And they did.
  356. Who's they?
  357. The Red Cross, and the Israeli newspaper.
  358. (Lou) They found your sisters for you.
    (Shirley) Yes.
  359. And they called me up, and they
    gave me their names and addresses,
  360. and they gave them my address.
  361. At that time, I had no family anymore.
  362. The family was perished.
    This was after the war already.
  363. That's how I found them.
  364. And when I went to Israel by boat,
  365. I was standing on deck, and my sister
    was downstairs shouting my name.
  366. So I said, "who are you, Rochel or Rosa?"
  367. I didn't see them in twenty-five years.
  368. I didn't know who they were.
  369. And that's how I found them,
    and then we became family again.
  370. ♪ ♪
  371. I came to America at the very end of 1928.
  372. December, 1928.
  373. I came just a few months before
    the banks crashed, the Wall Street crash.
  374. Times were hard, we worked for -
    my wages were $7-$8 a week.
  375. No union.
    We worked about 48 hours a week.
  376. ♪ ♪
  377. (Shirley) So we were organized,
    and the union became sort of a force.
  378. They started in a way to improve
    conditions in the shop,
  379. but very soon they were corrupted and they
    worked with the bosses and said reduce.
  380. So we the people in the shops
    organized an opposition to the union.
  381. (Shirley) We had an opposition of
    4 or 5 thousand.

  382. When they used to make elections every
    two years. We got over 5,000 votes
  383. and they were afraid that one day
    we'll take over the power, the left.
  384. So they started persecuting us.
  385. How?
  386. And discriminate against us.
  387. How?
  388. And call us all kinds of names and in
    the press they called me "The Red Shirley"
  389. ♪ ♪
  390. (Lou) Why you?
  391. (Shirley) Because I spoke at the meetings.
  392. (Lou) You spoke?
  393. (Shirley) Yes. I used to
    take the floor and-
  394. (Lou) you hardly knew English.
  395. No I knew by then I knew English already.
  396. It was 1936
  397. (Lou) and you could speak in public?
    You're a public speaker?
  398. I could speak, sure and I spoke and used
    to expose the conditions in the shop.
  399. (Lou chuckles)
    You exposed the conditions in the shop?
  400. (Shirley) I did!
    (Lou) You?
  401. (Lou) Didn't they try to beat you up
    or do something?
  402. They tried to stop me.
  403. They only gave me 5 minutes.
    How much can you say in 5 minutes?
  404. - (Lou) Bail out!
    - They took as much time as they wanted.
  405. - (Lou) They could.
    - And me they gave 5 minutes.
  406. But the workers used to start "Let her
    speak. She's saying what we want"
  407. And my stomach was churning when I spoke.
    Don't think I wasn't afraid.
  408. We took up the fight for the trade.
  409. (Lou) All these workers how did you
    become the one who talks?
  410. Because I worked in an Italian shop.
    The only Jewish woman and
  411. (Lou) In an Italian shop?
  412. Yes, and the bosses were Italian too.
  413. And the boss was everything to them.
    Whatever the boss said, they followed.
  414. So I would carry on the fight
    singlehandedly in the shop,
  415. in the union you know? Wherever there was
    a progressive worker in a shop,
  416. he fought for conditions.
    (door bell rings)
  417. I wasn't the only one. We were a group of
    5,000 people that fought against
  418. the corruption, you know? I told them
    "You think that we have democracy here?"
  419. "You think that we have equal rights?"
    No. I am 1 and they have 10 people.
  420. That's how it goes here. So one of the
    leaders of the Israelis said to me,
  421. "You must be the black sheep
    in the family." So I said, no,
  422. I'm the red sheep in the family.
  423. ♪ ♪
  424. (Shirley) Equal rights for the
    black people. I was there.
  425. (Shirley) There was a million people
  426. (Shirley) and I was among the million and
    it so happened that I was in front.
  427. - (Lou) How did you end up in front?
    - I don't know, I don't remember.
  428. -(Lou) What do you mean you don't know?
    - Huh?
  429. - What do you mean you don't know?
    - I don't remember.
  430. - (Lou) People probably tried to kill
    each other to get in front.
  431. - It was a million people, who remembers?
    - 1 million people and you ended up front?
  432. - Yes. Not the first row, but front.
    I saw him and I heard him.
  433. (Lou laughs)
  434. - (Lou) You heard him ?
    - Yeah.
  435. - Better than you hear me.
    - I heard him and they had a singer
  436. whom I liked very much. Mahalia Jackson,
    and she sang Spirituals and we were
  437. singing in kind. It was so moving
    the whole thing, you have know idea.
  438. (Shirley) It's like living through
    a lifetime. You know?
  439. ♪ ♪