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Eva Behar

1. My Early Life

MY NAME IS Eva Behar nee Herskovits. I was born 24 January 1925 in a town in Romania by the name of Sighet, the capital of Maramures. It was a small town, around 30,000 people, of which half or three quarters were very Orthodox Jews. I was the youngest of a family of seven. I had five brothers and my sister, who was the oldest. My sister’s name was Hajnal, or Dawn, and my eldest brother was called Piku. Then came twins, Mai and Eli, then Kuli, Bubi, and then me. We were a very religious family - my father never had his hat off from the minute he got out of bed.


My sweetest memories of those days up to the age of eight are sitting round the Shabbat table with my siblings. My mother, Ghizella, sat at one end of the table and my father, Alexander, at the other end. My father always had to scream and shout to get my five brothers into the bath to wash and clean them so that they were ready for Shabbat! The memory of my mother lighting the candles on Friday night has never left me. The blouse she wore and her figure came to me the day I was married. On the Continent you light a candle for every member of the family and I remember my mother’s tray with nine candles: two big ones, for my mother and father, five smaller ones for the boys and, of course, the two miniature candles for the two girls.


In 1933 I lost my mum – that was the hardest thing for me. When my mother died, I was not al-lowed to the lavoya (the funeral) and I remember banging my head against the garden wall, scream-ing that I wanted to go. After my mother died the family moved to a much bigger town, Timisoara, the capital of Banat. They moved because my father couldn't make a living as a furniture uphol-sterer in the smaller town of Sighet. But they didn’t take me with them.


I was eight years old and I was given to my father’s sister, Sari, and her husband Moritz Leicht-man who lived in Sighet. My aunt didn’t have any children and apparently she wanted me. She was also looking after another girl, a cousin called Pitsi who was much older than me. She was my fa-ther’s other sister’s daughter. Her parents were very poor, so my aunt took her in as well.

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