- Speaking Freely, Holocaust Survivors - 20140616 - Halina Peabody

Halina Peabody was born December 12, 1932 to a liberal Jewish family in Krakow, Poland. Her father was a dentist, her mother was a champion swimmer. She was the eldest of two daughters.

Halina was living in Zaleszczyki, Poland. Germany and Russia split Poland 1939. The area of Zaleszczyki, became part of Russia. Just before the invasion her father crossed over to Romania with other refugees. He later tried to return to his family but he was caught by the Russians and accused of being a spy, sentenced to twenty years hard labor and shipped off to Siberia. The Germans entered the area in 1941.

Dennis Raimondi talks with her about her experiences surviving the years of turmoil and torment.

Halina was nine years old when the Germans carried out their first "action". They demanded young men and women to report for work to bind trees for the winter in the woods. The only survivor, a young girl managed to escape and told the community of the horrors that she had witnessed. The young people were asked to dig a communal grave and were stood over the grave and shot. Halina lived through several more "actions", and then her mother bought new identities from a priest for the three of them.

Halina traveled with her mother and sister by train to Jaroslaw, Poland, where they lived with a washerwoman as Catholics. Her mother worked in a German Military Camp kitchen peeling potatoes. The day prior to the Russian advancement on Jaroslaw, a hand grenade detonated over the house where they were staying. The washerwoman was killed and a piece of the grenade wounded Halina's hand. They managed to get to a hospital, where the doctors saved her hand.

Later her mother began to look for her father, who had sent a telegram through the Red Cross to Zaleszczyki that he was alive and with his sister in Palestine. Friends from home wrote to Halina's mother with this information. After he was contacted, her father sent his nephew to Poland and put them in touch with the Jewish Agency who arranged for them to get out of Poland to rejoin him. The family decided to settle in London, England, where she grew up. She then represented England in the 1953 and 1957 Maccabiah Games in table tennis and settled in Israel until 1967 when she immigrated to the United States on November 6, 1968.