Miriam Kutunow

‘I got a lease on life. '

Miriam, was born in Buchara in Uzbekistan. She graduated from university in mathematics and physics and later married an American engineer who worked in Leningrad. During the war she and her  husband and a son were evacuated to Alma Ata in Kazakhstan. Her husband was mobilized in a ‘labor battalion’ and she never heard from him again. One day she was informed that he had died in an accident.

In 1943 she was married again, this time to a Polish citizen. After the liberation the family was repatriated to Poland, but quickly fled it in an attempt to reach through Germany and Austria  the promised land- Israel. After spending some time in a DP camp near Salzburg hunger and exhaustion attacked her husband’s health and that added to the effects of working in a Siberian mine caused tuberculosis and death.

Miriam also succumbed under the terrible strain of the endless struggle for survival. Only the will to survive in order to care for her young son prevented her from a complete nervous breakdown.

The rehabilitation centre in Ebelsberg took over. Doctors, nurses and psychiatrists examined her carefully and prescribed as part of the rehabilitation procedure ‘ a new interest in life; training for a manual vocation to prove to herself that she is capable to retraining her vitality’.

She had about twelve weeks of training in a needle trades course and was soon able to work for a full day. Her own feeling about her experience in Ebelsberg was in December 1949 best summed up by her own words: ‘I got a lease on life. I lived in debt to society. Very soon I am going to be a contributor to our people because for the first time I enjoy the opportunity of shaping my own future and that of my son.’Miriam [1]


[1] Source: World ORT Archive: ORT Bulletin vol. III no.4 (December 1949), pp.5-6