"Eter" wrote her autobiography in Polish in 1939, at the age of 18, 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.


I Enter First Grade and Make Friends

Eter was the daughter of a rabbi in a small town in the vicinity of Stanislawow, Poland.

When I was five years old, Papa started to teach me the alef-beys . I made good progress, and within a year I started to study the Torah . At the same time I began to study Polish and arithmetic. Our friends said that I had "a good head on my shoulders."

[...]my sister and I went to the director of the local elementary school, and she told him that I wanted to be admitted to the second grade. The director said that it would cost fifteen zloty . He advised that I would do better in the first grade, because I was so young. The next day I started to attend first grade. At home I was taught to write out the year, 1928, on my school notebook covers, and from then on I was able to recognize dates.

As soon as I walked into the first-grade classroom I felt at home, because I saw so many familiar faces. Everything came easily to me, except that I didn't know how to speak Polish. But I quickly learned the language, and school was fun for me.

I became close with Nusia Zussman, the pharmacist's daughter. I would pick her up every day on the way to school, and after school she would walk me home. I learned to speak Polish from her, because although she is Jewish she didn't know Yiddish. I liked going over to her house because they always had lots of company. Her aunt, Dr. Kanarienstein's wife, would visit with her son Julek, who was younger than we were. Miss Reich, a teacher, would come with her pupil Ignasz, who was older than we were, and Dr. Topf's wife would also come over with her daughter Felicia, who went to school with us. The only problem was that I had to go home before tea-time, because I didn't want to eat non-kosher  food.

Ceremony to Celebrate Completion of a Torah Scroll

When Eter was still a small child, a religious celebration made a big impression on her:

At this time our family celebrated an event that I've witnessed only once in my life. Grandfather had commissioned a scribe to write a Torah  scroll, and it was completed just at this time.

Many guests gathered for the dedication ceremony. In the evening there was a supper, and the celebration lasted until very late into the night. The procession that carried the Torah scroll from Grandfather's house to the synagogue was beautiful. Distinguished guests accompanied the Torah under a canopy. Alongside them, people carried candles and lit sparklers. The peasants kept their distance; none of them dared come close. For a long time afterward I dreamt every night about the dedication of the Torah.