Part 19 (Prague)
Life in Prague (Interview)
Click on images to enlarge.
What was the economy like in Prague? Was there a black market there?
No. The only thing I call a black market was in Russia when I had what amounted to stolen goods. And I had a perfectly clear conscience because I was stealing them from the Nazis and they were mistreating the population. And in Lvov there was a bazaar. A bazaar is where anybody can go and sell. That was part of life. People came from the farm and they brought their eggs and your children outgrew their clothes and you would sell that.
In Prague they didn’t have a bazaar that I was aware of. They may have had one someplace outside the city. There were regular stores and you had to have regular currency to buy. Oh! I remember that you had stamps, you had rations. There were rations all over the place to shop, even in Kiev. You had these coupons and if you had a family you had so much. And there were also coupons for things like cigarettes, which we always converted. To some smokers it was more important than meat, so we changed our cigarette coupons for meat coupons and stuff like that. That was great because both my father and mother got quite a few coupons for cigarettes and they were able to change them.
In Prague, food was scarce but not as scarce as in Kiev. The Doroshenkos and us would sit around the kitchen table (the other rooms were not heated), and discuss the luxurious feasts we would prepare after the war. I dreamt of sausages and salamis.
Where did the coupons come from?
I think you had to go to some office to get them. You had to come and get them for a month. I really don’t remember. When you are a kid you don’t think about these things. They just appear and you go with them to the store.
Rationing was common in all the countries participating in World War II including the United States. To make sure that everyone had access to resources that were in short supply, coupons or tickets were issued. The items still needed to be paid for but without the coupon you were not able purchase them.
On the left are Nazi ration coupons for cigarettes and bread. To the right is a sample of a whole sheet (in this case for purchasing meat). This sheet was good from January 11 to February 2, 1943 in the town of Neuss, Germany. The rations are for a child of up to six years old.
What about your piano lessons?
The piano lessons came about because my mother was teaching this young girl Russian in exchange for piano lessons. At that time I was not going to school. I really missed out on a lot of years of school. Under the Nazis when I was eleven I didn’t go to school, when was twelve I didn’t go to school, and when I was thirteen I didn’t go to school. By the time we went to Prague I was fourteen. I went to the Ukrainian school that spring and even part of the summer. Then in the winter we didn’t have much school because there was no heat.
I wanted to do something with myself, and this young women was a conservatory student and she said she’d give me piano lessons. I went to her house for the lessons. We had no piano in the apartment, but for a small fee it was possible to practice in a store that rented and sold pianos (they had a few rooms with pianos for that purpose). The store was about a half hour walk from our apartment. I spent a few hours most days practicing, and although I wasn’t very good I was making progress. My teacher also supplied me with free tickets to the opera (standing room tickets), and I had a good time there.
In Prague you were doing athletics. What was the organization called?
Was it associated with your school?
No. It was independent, like the YMCA here and stuff like that. It was not exactly the same but it was an organization for sports. I only remember it vaguely. There were groups of people and we did certain exercises. And we learned how to do them. It was strictly gymnastics.
Was it close by where you lived?
I don’t remember that much. It was not far.
Could you walk there?
Yes. Or maybe I took a trolley.
From the Wikipedia article Sokol:
The Sokol movement (Czech: [ˈsokol], falcon) is an all age gymnastics organization first founded in Prague in the Czech region of Austria-Hungary in 1862 by Miroslav Tyrš and Jindřich Fügner. It was based upon the principle of "a strong mind in a sound body". The Sokol, through lectures, discussions, and group outings provided what Tyrš viewed as physical, moral, and intellectual training for the nation. This training extended to men of all ages and classes, and eventually to women. The movement also spread across all the regions populated by Slavic cultures.
Ariadna’s ID card for Sokol, the athletic organization in Prague. For some reason her year of birth is listed as 1931 instead of 1930.
The Sokol movement came to the U.S.A.
Image is Public Domain.