Survivor STORY

Rubin (Riwen) Pichulik was devoted to his wife, Sara, and very proud of his family: his son, Louis; daughter, Jeannette; daughter-in-law, Jo; son-in-law, Michael Zukor; grandchildren, Elissa and husband, Greg Kodesh; Suzanne and husband, Seth Eisenberg; Laura and David; nephew, Michael Perry; his late brother and sister-in-law, Chaskiel and Lena; and late nephew, Jim Parker. Rubin had a delightful sense of humor and warmth that drew people to him and put them at ease. He would strike-up a conversation with any stranger. Generous to family, friends, and a multitude of Jewish organizations, he especially wished to preserve the Yiddish language.

Born to Esther and Isaac Myer Pichulik in Warsaw, Poland, on December 15, 1912, Rubin was the youngest of five brothers: Simcha Binem, Ariel, Faiwel, and Chaskiel. At the age of 12, he began working at and later became a partner of Unzer Express (Our Express) a newspaper published in two languages, Polish and Yiddish. When his brother needed work, he paid for him to be a partner as well. He shared any good fortune with family and friends. On January 1, 1939, Rubin married the love of his life, Sara Greenblat. By September 1939, Hitler invaded Warsaw, and Rubin fled with thousands of other young men to Russia. Sara followed several weeks later, and they spent the war years in slave labor camps in Siberia, with Rubin surviving typhus as well. Their son Louis was born following the war in Anapa, Russia. Several years later, while in a resettlement camp, their daughter, Anna, aka Jeannette, was born in Wursburg, Germany.

In December of 1951, the family moved to Atlanta. Rubin's first job was at Gate City Table Company. Having saved enough money, he and brother, Chaskiel bought an ice cream store; and later a grocery store. Then they spit up and each bought his own grocery store. Any time a customer was unable to pay, Rubin noted the IOU in his ledger while never expecting repayment. Working seven days a week and with only a weeks vacation in 20 years, Rubin had saved enough money to begin purchasing real estate. This business continues in the third generation.

Rubin not only worked hard, but he had a great vitality, energy, and zest for life. He enjoyed weekly poker games with friends, traveled around the word, including revisiting his home in Warsaw. He spoke, read, and was able to write in six languages: Polish, Yiddish, Hebrew, Russian, German, and English; and was a very graceful dancer. Rubin was very proud that he, Sara, and Sara's sister, Lena Pichulik conceived of the idea for the Holocaust memorial at Greenwood Cemetery. He organized the committee to oversee its construction and dedication. Rubin died Thursday night, July 23, at his home, surrounded by his family.

Making a Living

A man come in over there, he had a deli on North Highland and he had a worker, what he left him and he need some help. So, he heard about me, so he find out, this, he will take me in over there in a delicatessen store, because I speak several languages, and that was a Jewish section on North Highland in the 1950s, the early 1950s. So he said, "You will speak Yiddish, you will speak Russian, you will speak Polish, you will speak German and most of the people will enjoy talking to you. You going be good for my business and you will have better - you will learn business in case you will go for business for yourself. You will learn the language better being with people and talking to people."

Racism and Race Relations

Not knowing the language, I catch the bus to go to work. I went in the bus and been sitting over there in the back over there. The people been looking at me, they said you, they been looking at me, and I don't know what happened. When they talk to me I no been able to understand what they saying. When I got back home, Levy was over there, oleveshalom [may he rest in peace].

Anyway, I told him about this. "What happened? Why people been looking at me so? Why I'm look different than other people? Because, they don't know nothing. He said. "What happened? I said, "I been went for a bus." "Where were you sitting?" I said, "I been sitting in the back." "Don't sit in the back. The back is only colored people. You should sit in front always." That was very new to me.

How did you feel when he told you that?

I feel very bad about this. I feel like I been discriminated in Poland, and we no have the right what the Polish people, and we no have the right to work on a government job, even on a city job. In Poland you had no one Jewish man who used to work in a post office, or used to work even as a janitor. One time, one time I remember they put in a Jewish man sweep up the streets. They made some pictures of them. That was a history already. The man, they showed the pictures in all the Jewish papers. That was something new already. This, one Jewish man, one Jewish man sweep up the street and he was the only one. Not on the street cars, and not in the offices, and not in the post office. No kind job a Jewish man not able to have that in Poland. And that was new when we came in over here -- they probably feel the way like we been feeling in Poland and that's not right.

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Rubin Pichulik