"G.S." wrote her autobiography in Polish in 1939, at the age of 21, as an entry in an essay contest sponsored by the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research. YIVO, then located in Vilna, Poland, invited young Polish Jews between the ages of 16 and 22 to write and send in their life stories.

To protect her anonymity, G.S.'s home town is known here simply as "M" and her parents' names have been disguised as well. YIVO guaranteed anonymity in order that the entrants should feel comfortable being honest about their feelings and lives.

I was born in 1918 in M., the second daughter of H. and H. S. My father works as a manager of rural estates. My arrival into the world wasn't a happy one. My parents had wanted a son very much. When they were expecting their first child, they had hoped for a boy, and when it turned out that their second child was also a girl my mother took an instant dislike to me, which I have felt all my life.

I run away from home and begin working as a tailor

Once, during my summer vacation following the sixth grade, I could stand it no longer and ran away from home. I moved in with my aunt, who also lived in W., but on another street.

With my cousins' help I found a job with a tailor, where I worked as a finisher of trousers. I was earning six to eight zloty a week, and I gave all the money to my aunt in exchange for room and board. My aunt didn't want to accept it, but I insisted. She finally agreed, and from time to time she would use some of the money to buy me something to wear.

I felt comfortable at the tailor shop and even grew to like my job, but there were moments when I was gripped by feelings of regret about not going to school and about my unfulfilled dreams of studying medicine.

After several months at this job, I ran into my teacher in the street. When she asked me why I wasn't attending school, I told her that I couldn't because I had to work. She became indignant and insisted that I absolutely had to return to school, and she assured me that a student would be found for me to tutor in the afternoons.

I had to agree. I went back home, quickly studied the material I had missed, and in the second semester I returned to school.

I Return Home and enroll in School

My teachers and relatives talked me into enrolling in a teachers' seminary, where I could graduate in less time than at other schools. They also believed that this degree would make it easier for me to find a job.

I took their advice and enrolled in the seminary. I attended classes and tutored in the afternoons. Mother thought this was foolish and claimed my studies would be of no use to me. My sister, having graduated from elementary school, was learning to sew, and this pleased Mother much more.

[...]A silent feud developed between my parents and me. They both now thought that I should drop out of school, stay at home, and help Mother. But I was stubborn and prevailed, enrolling in the seminary in Zloczów.

However, I attended the school only for a few months until the end of the school year. During summer vacation, Father managed to convince me that attending the seminary was a waste of money, and that as a Jew I would never get a teaching job. Besides, the program at the seminary lasted five years, and tuition was so high!

However, since I desperately wanted to study and become accomplished, Father and I decided that at the beginning of the school year I would enroll in a commercial school. Despite the openly anti-Semitic attitudes that increasingly prevailed, we firmly believed that I would end up working in an office.

During that summer vacation I was depressed. Although I didn't work outside the house, as I had the two previous summers, my thoughts were unhappy. It was so sad to abandon my dreams and start something else again. Once before, I'd gotten over the disappointment that I wasn't going to study medicine; I had consoled myself that I would be a teacher, and I liked this idea. Now I was leaving it behind to take up something else again.

That year my brother passed the gymnasium entrance examination, and both of us went to school in Zloczów. We rented a room there; our sister kept house for us, our parents paid for my brother, and I earned my keep by tutoring. I had promised to do this, and on this condition I was given permission to go to school.

It wasn't hard for me to find students to tutor, because I earned a reputation as a bright student very quickly, and my professors liked me. I had about five or six tutorials, which paid enough to cover my tuition payments as well as my room and board. Clothing was always a problem.