Survivor STORY

Jeanine Tchoudnovsky Storch grew up in a suburb of Paris, France. She and her mother, Pauline Tchoudnovsky, survived in their apartment because, miraculously, the Gestapo never came to take them and their neighbors did not denounce them.

After the war, Jeanine decided to move to the United States, where she met and married her husband, Jack, who lived in Atlanta.

Atlanta

When I first came to visit my soon-to-be husband in Atlanta I told him I would like to see the cotton plantation. The reason was because I had read, during the war, Gone With the Wind. It was a forbidden book, but we had been able to buy it for some...

Jack: Black market.

Yes. And so I read that and Jack tells me, "What do you mean by plantation?" I said, "You know, well in Atlanta, I understand there are plantations." Well, we went to, we drove to one of the little villages around here and we found a small field with few cotton plants and these little white balls of cotton. That was the extent of the plantation. Gone were the plantation and gone were the Atlanta of the book, you know. So that was something interesting to me to see, you know, this new metropolis instead of what I had read about.

Racism and Race Relations

But the one thing, I hadn't learned to drive in New York, and so I took the bus and the first time that I took the bus, I go into the bus, there are maybe two white people sitting in the front. In the back of the bus is all black people, standing room only. And I walked in and I wanted so much to go and sit with them, but I didn't have the courage. And I sat in the front and I cried, because it reminded me when, during the war when I was a teenager, and I would take the Metro subway in Paris, and I was only allowed to go to the last wagon, as a Jew. And I would run the length of the - and I would, sometimes the doors would close before I had time to go in. And here I found myself, the same thing, these black people were not allowed to sit in the front and I didn't have the courage - just like the French people, I accepted the system. And so it made me very, very sad, and I was happy that eventually, these unfair practices disappeared.

But when they were sitting in the train and they would see me with my yellow star running to catch the last wagon, they had this blank look on their face, they weren't, they were looking through me, and I always used to think how cowardly that was. And, but, nobody was bad to me, but how cowardly it was. And here I was in same type of situation and I didn't have the courage to do anything. And I thought if I go and sit there and I start speaking with my accent they may even put me in jail. So it was a strange feeling, at first, when I came here, or to see the, to go in a government building and to see a water fountain that said "Colored" and the other one that said "White." I remember in the park in Paris and in the surrounding area where it said, "No dogs and no Jews allowed." And so it was painful to see that.

Importance of Family

I want to take this opportunity to speak of my mother [Pauline Tchoudnovsky]. She was an extraordinary lady. She was truly a woman of valor. She had a great tragedy; she lost three of her four children. And when I was born she really didn't even think that she would hold on to this one child, but I think the bad weeds stay on longer. So when Jack asked me to marry, I told him, "I want you to know my mother will always live with us. This is going to be always." And he said that was fine with him.

Jack: After she cooked a meal.

He had lost his mother so young that she would be his mother. And so it was. He was a very devoted son-in-law. And my mother was an inspiration to all my friends, including, you remember, Marcia, and all of them. She was invited to every social function and everything. And your mother used to call her Madame Pauline. They often used to call her just to speak to her, to hear what she had to say. She was a great inspiration. She felt a mother a little bit to every one of my friends. She was a lady who was born in the nineteenth century and yet, when the first astronaut went to the moon, I wanted to know what she had, this is when you can adapt to different circumstances. I said, "Mother, what do you think of the man, an astronaut walking on the moon?" And she said, "That was to be expected. Men will always want to know new things. And I can understand that. The moon was there and it needed to be explored." And I thought that was really outstanding of her.

Remembering and Legacy

As I grow older I begin, I miss more the people that I lost. A few years ago, recently really, a couple of years ago, I received all the papers and pictures of a cousin of mine, a first cousin, who died, was really a hero. And I just think, I could, he could have, he could have been married, he could have had children. I could have had this family. I think of, when I was a little girl my father was a tailor and he had an atelier and he had people working for him, and I think of these people that were also like family and were arrested and disappeared. And I could, you know, we could have had all these people. And as I grow older, I think of the people I miss. Not just the people I miss, but the people who never were. And that makes me very sad.

Jeanine Storch