Warning! The text retains the original spelling of surnames and place names by an Israeli researcher; in many cases it may not be correct. Fragments that could contain current personal data have been removed from the interview.

 

Name of Interviewee: Fela (Felicia) Avineri (nee Katz), b. 1910 in Stryj;

Interview topic: Fela Avineri and her family;

father's name: Avner Katz (1874-1940s);

mother’s name: Rachela Katz (1876-1938);

sister’s name: Riva (1905-1960);

husband’s name: Reuven Kalman (Avineri), b. 1907 in Tarnopol;

 

Date of the interview: July 2009.

 

Fela (Felicia) Avineri (nee Katz) was born in 1910 in Stryj, Poland.

Fela's parents, Avner and Rachela Katz, named her Felicia, which means "happiness".

Fela had one sister, Riva (1905-1960).

Avner and Rachela, Fela's parents were cousins. Their fathers were brothers. Their mothers were cousins.

All were born in Stryj.

Rachela was born in 1876 and died 62 years later, in 1938.

When she died, Fela and her sister Riva were already living in Palestine. Upon being notified that their mother was dying, they left for Poland. However, they arrived after the "Shiva", the seven days of mourning.

Avner was born ~1874 and was killed by the Ukrainians in the 1940s, in one of the actions that were taken against the Jews in town.

Avner came from a very rich family. Fela recalls her paternal grandfather as a very rich and distinguished person.

Fela's maternal grandfather Yoseph, married to Michle, was an intellectual.

Fela proudly stated that her grandfather bore seven children. Five of his children held doctorate degrees.

When Avner and Rachela got married, many important guests were invited.

In order to prevent unexpected guests at the wedding, grandfather Yoseph Katz, held a big meal in honor of the wedding for 100 poor Jews in town, so that those people would not invite themselves to the wedding meal, the following day.

Rachela was superstitious. Therefore, at the wedding, the photographer was instructed not to take one group picture, but rather three separate photos for three different groups.

Rachela was an outstanding woman. She was an intellectual. She mastered the Polish, German, and French languages, as well as Yiddish. She was qualified to teach German and French.

She was among the three women elected to the city council. Among her social activities in town, she saw the need to assist women to obtain a profession in order to support their families. Therefore, she organized a sewing course in town, where women could learn to operate sewing machines and sew.

The city council was very active, since the city was governed as an autarky, (an economy that is self-sufficient and does not take part in international trade, or severely limits trade with the outside world. Likewise, the term refers to an ecosystem not affected by influences from the outside, which relies entirely on its own resources. In the economic meaning, it is also referred to as a closed economy).

The city was heavily dependant on the community. It collected taxes from the various institutions that were in town such as: synagogues, hospital, orphanage, schools, charity institutions and the like.

Shalom Asch (1880-1957), a Jewish author, was highly impressed by the way the city was governed. In one of his essays he described the fifteen community institutions that were found in town.

Fela recalls her father as a very handsome man and talented person. He established a factory in town that manufactured detergents for the industry. Avner was one of eight partners that owned the factory. Managing the factory was by rotation. Each year, two partners took a turn in managing the business.

Fela recalls her home as one without electricity and running water. Water was brought in buckets from the factory, as well as the wood for heating and cooking.

The house was located on one of the nicest streets in town, across from the municipality building.

Fela's parents kept a religious home, as was customary in their community. Yet, her mother, a progressive woman, did not belong to a religious party but rather was a member of a progressive party, The General Zionists ("Zionim Klalim", in the center of the Zionist movement and a political party in Israel. Their political arm is an ancestor of the modern-day Likud and Kadima parties").

Rachela was among the first to be inscribed in the "Keren Kayemet Golden Book", as a prime donator.

Fela's parents employed two helpers at home. Rachel was a cook and the other, a gentile woman, took care of the house.

Mother worked as a teacher.

The two daughters, Fela and Riva, spoke Polish with their mother as well as with the gentile woman. With the Jewish housekeeper, they spoke Yiddish.

From an early stage in her life, Fela and her family lived much of the time away from home.

When World War I broke out, Fela's father was away on business in London. He remained in London until World War I ended.

Being without her husband, Rachela took her two daughters and moved to Vienna. During the war, they traveled home, back and forth several times. They traveled by horse and wagon, crossing Hungary to reach Poland.

While in Vienna, Rachela worked as a teacher in order to support the family

When the war finally ended, the family returned to Poland and lived with Fela's paternal grandmother. Fela recalls that period as an unpleasant one. Grandmother, who always used to be the center of interest in her household, suddenly had to share the interest with another woman, with Rachela, Fela's mother. Since Rachela was a beautiful, talented woman, she attracted much interest, a fact that was not appreciated by grandmother.

In addition, Rachela and her daughters shared the house with a very religious aunt and her husband. That couple made Rachela and her daughters' life miserable.

When Avner finally returned home from London, he realized the tension at home. He therefore decided to leave the house. Fela and her family could finally enjoy their privacy.

Fela started to attend school. Although she did not know Polish when she first entered school, she mastered the language quite fast.

Fela recalls that at the age of ten, she was fluent enough in Polish to write a poem, which she recited at a school ceremony.

The poem was so moving, that both her school principal and the regional school supervisor, shed tears upon hearing it.

In addition to day school, Fela attended an afternoon Hebrew school for four years.

Fela excelled at her studies. Upon graduating from high school, she moved to Lwów, where she enrolled at the university. Fela obtained BA and MA degrees in Philosophy. Although she could progress to her doctorate degree, she knew that she would have to confront anti-Semitism and therefore decided to forgo that step in her studies.

In 1936, Fela met Reuven Kalman, a young man that Fela's uncle thought would be a suitable husband for her.

Reuven was born in 1907 in a small town near Tarnopol.

His parents were Yoseph Kalman and Miriam (nee Fischer).

Reuven was one of four siblings: Reuven, Moshe, Hanna and Nathan.

Miriam died before World War II from diabetes.

Yoseph and his daughter Hanna perished during the Holocaust.

Hanna followed her father when he was taken out of his hiding place. They were taken to Belzec extermination camp where they were killed.

Moshe escaped to Russia. He joined the Russian army and died during the war.

Nathan survived the war and lives in the USA.

Shlomo was an excellent student. He attended school for seven years, after which he took exams and was admitted to high school.

Reuven left home in 1924 and moved to Warsaw, where he attended "Tachkemony" school, that granted him a school diploma as well as rabbinical certification.

Upon graduation, Reuven did not want to return home. He knew that returning home would mean marriage. Therefore, Reuven traveled to Berlin, Germany. There, not knowing German, he took entrance exams, passed them and was admitted to the university.

Reuven studied social economics and graduated with a doctorate degree.

While in Berlin, Reuven was active in "Ha'Halutz", a Zionist movement.

That activity granted him two certificates that allowed him and his spouse to immigrate to Palestine.

After completing his academic studies, Reuven returned to Poland. There he was introduced to Fela. He proposed to her. Yet, Fela felt that she could not accept the proposal without knowing the man better.

Therefore, Fela suggested traveling to Reuven's hometown, where she had an uncle. She suggested she stayed at her uncle, then she and Reuven would meet daily for two weeks, after which she would be able to decide whether to accept the proposal.

After two weeks, Fela felt that she could accept Reuven's marriage proposal.

Reuven and Fela got married in Stryj on 24/6/1937 after which they immigrated to Palestine.

Starting their life in a new country, the couple decided to take a Hebrew family name. The two changed "Kalman", Reuven's family name, to "Avineri". "Avi Neri" means in Hebrew-"My father-my light". It was also close to Fela's father's name - Avner.

With a new name and hopes for a new life in the new country, the young couple arrived in Palestine in 1937.

They first went to Nahalal, where Riva, Fela's sister lived.

Later they moved to Kfar Yehoshua, where Reuven taught Hebrew and counseled youths.

The next moves were to other agricultural settlements until they finally settled in Ramat-Gan in 1953.

[…]

Fela and Reuven had three daughters:

[…]

Fela and Reuven live in a senior citizens dwelling in Ramat-Gan. They take part in the house activities such as lectures, theater, games and the like.

In 2007, Reuven celebrated his 100th birthday along with his and Fela's 70th wedding anniversary. A big celebration was held and the couple was interviewed for a national TV station.

Fela and Reuven are highly respected by their daughters, their sons-in-law, their grandchildren and their eleven great grandchildren, as well as by their friends.

 

Drukuj