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Ruth Edwards

Arrived in Britain:
Place of Birth:
Born:
16 Feb. 1939
Experiences:

Interview Summary:

Ruth Edwards was born in Vienna in 1926. Her parents were from Russia and Poland. Her father emigrated to Austria after the First World War with his father and her mother came as a child with her family. Her mother had four brothers, including a doctor and a lawyer. Both of Ruth's parents were from orthodox families but after marriage her mother was not as strict. Her father ran a small business. Her maternal grandmother did most of their cooking and her grandfather delivered it to their house. They were poor and lived in a flat without running water or an indoor toilet, which was located in the yard. They lived in the 20th district of Vienna in the Brigittagasse. 

 

Ruth was an only child. Her mother became very ill after a subsequent stillbirth. She attended the local junior and secondary school and a Hebrew School. Her father davened (prayed) in Machsikei Hadass and she attended the children’s service in Kluckygasse.

 

When Jews were forbidden to attend non-Jewish school, Ruth began attending a Jewish School some distance away. She did not remember any change in her district with the Anschluss and her first encounter with Nazism was the imprisonment of her father in Dachau during the November Pogrom (Kristallnacht) 1938. He was released after her mother obtained a visa for Shanghai. Her mother arranged for Ruth to go to her father’s relations in Manchester and she left on 14 February 1939. 

 

Ruth immediately started Grecian St School and picked up English quickly. Her relations bought her all of the things she needed while attending school. Meanwhile, her parents obtained visas for Yugoslavia and went to Zagreb. 

 

Ruth was evacuated with the school and stayed with a non-Jewish family until December 1939. She left school after eighteen months and was expected to work for her family in the house and in their wallpaper shop. They did not support her wish for further education and she remained in menial work for seven years. In 1946 she left them for her aunt and uncle who had moved to Macclesfield and there she was free to live her own life. She attended Austria House, the cinema, the Ritz on Sunday afternoons where there was a refugee table, night school and worked in an office. She was happy and she met her husband Sidney Edwards at this time. He was a refugee from Vienna and he had served in the British army. They married in 1949 in Sabrina St Shul.

I will say I am one of the lucky ones that came over. Although seven years weren't very happy, I was still lucky to have had them because, without them, I would be where everybody else was [in Nazi Europe].

My father… wasn't allowed to work and he had until the end of February to leave the country. He didn't want to go to Shanghai because there was no way my mother could go. They started looking where they could go illegally and the only place that was open to them …was Yugoslavia. My father went first and my mother followed him. I can't really tell you the dates. They went before the war because I still have letters from them.

People went illegally to Switzerland and to Belgium. Some got turned back. You got stories "Don't go there for that. Don’t go there for that." You really didn’t know where to go. If you got to Czechoslovakia Hitler follows you round, so you were no better off.

I know how much pleasure my grandchildren have given me. I used to have the older ones staying with me. And he [her son] used to say, "Mum, we don't know what grandparents, what it is. We never had them, so let them enjoy it." And we have. We have had a very good relationship with all four. It is wonderful, which my parents never had.

I was on the train and I saw my father crying. Of course that made me cry and my mother said "Perhaps she doesn't want to go." And I said, "Yes, I do want to go." I remember saying that but not in English of course and the next thing we were gone. It was a very quick goodbye. Nobody thought that we would never seem them again. I thought it would be a matter of six or seven months and we would be together again.

I stayed the night in London. Again, my auntie's cousin was in London who called for me at the station. She took me to her home and let me sleep the night there. Took me the next day to what I presume was Euston and put me on the train for Piccadilly. All I had was Auntie Lena's address on a piece of paper. I got on the train and I got to Piccadilly. I knew there would be nobody waiting for me. I took a taxi. I showed the taxi driver this address and I got there.

I was cleaning - cleaning in Auntie Lena's shop. I helped to prepare meals, wash up,do the washing, the ironing and the cleaning. Later on, when my Uncle Nat was called up into the army, she didn't want to stay in the house. She was having a baby. That's what it was, she was having a baby then, Vivienne, and she had to go to Blackpool for a fortnight because they would not allow them to have the children in Manchester. So she went to Blackpool during her time of having the baby. I went to live with her mother and father in Heywood Street and her sister and me would come and open the shop every day. It was a wallpaper shop and paint shop. Gradually I started cleaning the other house as well and washing and ironing. I did that besides having to look after Vivienne when she was old enough for me to be able to handle her. Don't forget, I had never handled a baby. I did nothing else. I cleaned, washed, I ironed, I cooked and that was it. I did that for seven years.

Finally I got my auntie and uncle to come and take me to Macclesfield to live with them. That was absolutely wonderful. I was a free person. I could go out when I wanted. You cannot imagine it. I started going into Manchester, going to dances, to Austria House and going to the Ritz in the afternoon on Sunday. It was a wonderful life for me. I met Sydney soon after and that was it.

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