Oral History Interview with Chayale Ash-Fuhrman

Chayale Ash-Fuhrman, nee Averbuch, was born in 1920 in Kishinev, Bessarabia, Romania. She describes life in Kishinev, her education in public school and private Jewish school. Her parents led a troupe of Yiddish actors which she joined until she turned professional at age 15. She gives a thorough and highly descriptive account of the Yiddish stage. She details Romanian government restrictions in the inter-war period and the effects of the Russian occupation of Bessarabia in 1940. The Moldavian Yiddish State Theatre, as it was then called, could function only under strict Communist guidelines.

In June 1941, the theatre group and other civilians were evacuated to Ukraine with Russian help. They were forced to stop in a kolkhoz (cooperative village) in K'harkov to help with the harvest. The refugees lived under primitive conditions and encountered antisemitism from the villagers. In November 1941 they followed the government to Kuybishev, then to Tashkent to pick cotton in another cooperative. She describes the difficulties of adapting to the Russian way of getting along; relations with the locals, and the onset of hatred for Jews. Her father died of dysentery in 1942. Using her training from professional school, she joined a sewing cooperative to get more bread. Chayale and the other Jews tried to practice their religion. Chayale later worked as a clerk in a steel mill in Begovat. She married a man who was working as a mechanic at the mill in 1943. In 1945, Chayale and her husband returned to Poland in an exchange program for Polish citizens. Poles were still killing Jews after the war so they settled in a Displaced Persons camp in Silesia. She worked as emigration secretary for "Poale Zion" and mentions various strategies Jewish refugees used to leave Russia.
In 1948 Chayale, her husband and her mother, walked to Vienna. Israelis met their group and placed them in a Displaced Persons camp in Linz, in the American zone, where Chayale gave birth to a daughter. UNRRA and the Joint Distribution Committee helped them go to Jaffa, Israel in August, 1948, with false papers, on an Italian ship Campidoglio. Her husband joined the army immediately. She talks about early immigrant life in Israel under wartime conditions. In 1949 she founded the Haifa Yiddishe Operetten Theatre and later went to Tel Aviv. She also performed in London, and toured South Africa with an all Israeli ensemble. After her divorce in 1953, she married her second husband an actor from Romania, in New York in 1959 and stayed in the United States.
She discusses her feelings about the Holocaust and its effect on children of survivors.

Date: 09/21/1981
Interviewer: Josey G. Fisher
Interviewee: Chayale Ash-Fuhrman
Language: English
Subject: World War, 1939-1945--Personal narratives, Jewish
Location: Chisinau, Moldova
Kharkiv, Ukraine
Samara, Russia
Bekobod, Uzbekistan
Tashkent, Uzbekistan
Silesia, Poland
Linz Displaced Persons Camp
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