Eugenia (Jean) Yuspeh was born on September 8, 1924 in Lodz, Poland, the second oldest of six siblings; four girls and then twins, a boy and a girl. Her parents imported and exported shoes with Germany. Jean remembers a beautiful childhood - going to the ballet, the theater, her Grandfather’s summer estate. The children were protected from knowledge about the political situation. She attended an all-girls public school. The family observed Shabbat and the holidays, but girls were not involved in religious life as they are today.
When the Germans invaded, things immediately were very bad. One night, her father was summoned to clean the school’s bathrooms. Her mother told him to find a place where he could be safe. At the time, Russia was the only refuge for Jews. Her father disappeared.
Jean and three friends decided to find her father. At age fourteen, without money or direction, they left Lodz, traveled on foot and hitchhiked on trains, slept in synagogues, travelling to Warsaw, Bialystok, then to Brest-Litovsk (Russia), and found Jean’s father. They lived near, but not with her father, since he was living with another family. Jean went to high school and learned Russian. One night, the Russians were checking citizenship papers. Those not Russian, were sent to Siberia, including Jean and her father.
Siberia was a heavily forested area; no roads so a tractor had to make a path; no barracks, just a little hut. Jean became a lumberjack. As the war neared an end, Jean and those in her “camp” fled east. She ended up in Prunza, where she met her husband. Ultimately, they ended up in Asia, where they remained until the war was over in 1945. Her son was born while she was in Asia.
It was then that she found out that her sisters had been in the Lodz ghetto, then sent to Auschwitz$ where her mother and the twins were murdered. The other sisters managed to survive, but two died on the forced march to the Baltic. The remaining sister spent three years in a Displaced Persons camp. They were finally reunited and came to the United States. Her sister settled in New York.
Jean moved to New Orleans, in 1949, since her husband had family there. He worked in the family business family. Jean went to work in a small grocery store to learn the language. She also learned to be a butcher. Jean then developed and ran a ladies’ boutique. She moved to Milwaukee several years ago to be near her son and his family.
Jean’s message to the world is: don’t hate, it makes you bitter and not able to enjoy life.