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Letters from Rifka
Transcript of Letters from Rifka
Doctors examine them before letting them into Poland
Rifka is embarrassed by the doctor's attention. They are sprayed with disinfectant and let go. Someone stole their candlesticks but Momma tells her to be brave and strong.
On the way to Warsaw to get passage to America. Older brothers have sent for them.
Rifka's family is changed since the typhus. Everyone is thin and tired. They are traveling by train and there is a girl with a baby. Rifka says she will fix the girls hair so it will look nice for her sister. She sees the sores on the girls head and doesn't want to touch the girl but she doesn't want to offend her either, so she fixes the girls hair.
Rifka has to stay in Antwerp for a year
Rifka goes to school and works and tells Tovah that she will send the book back to her so she can know Rifka's story. She sends Tovah a real letter that goes through the mail.
1919: Rifka and her family are escaping Russia by train. Rifka is the only one who doesn't look Jewish so she must keep the soldiers away from the box cars where they are hiding
Rifka notices that Poland is not very different
than Russia and that Jews are still prisoners.
The Family is still in Poland because of typhus.
Everyone got sick except
Saul. They took Momma,
Papa and Nathan away to the hospital. Rifka was getting better so she had to stay with only Saul to take care of her.
Nov. 3rd 1919. Motziv Poland-Waiting for Mama and Papa
Rifka sneaks into the hospital to see her mother, the first and second times the doctor chases her away but the third time the doctor lets her stay because she has had Typhus already and he thinks it might help her mother.
Rifka talks about how much weight she has lost and how much Saul has grown. Rifka wishes her Grandmother would leave Russia but she knows her Bubbe is afraid. Tovah is safe because her family has more money and power.
They must leave because Rifka's brother has deserted the army and the family is afraid.
Rifka can't go to America because she has ringworm!
Rifka's parents try to bribe the steamboat companies to take Rifka but no one will take her because when she gets to America they will send her back to Poland.
HIAS will help the family by finding a place for Rifka to stay until she is well. Her hair is falling out and she feels ugly. The HIAS lady says Rifka needs to go to to Antwerp and get treatment. That way she can get better and then go to America.
Mother gave Rifka her necklace and papa gave her his Tallis. She lives with an older couple who have many nice things and they take good care of her. She misses her family very much but is happy that they have a place in New York and are working hard.
Rifka remembers the doll that Tovah gave her for her 9th birthday and how her mother took the doll and sold it for potatoes. She promises that in America no one will take things from her again.
Rifka's hair has fallen out completely and she has to have treatments every day and is learning Flemish. Sister Katrina is kind to Rifka and encourages her to get out of her room and learn more things. She misses her family terribly.
Rifka begins to explore Antwerp and gets lost but she begins to make some new friends, like the milkman.
She has to remember that it is not the
same as Russia and she should
not be afraid.
She makes friends with a little girl named Gizelle and she feels like the people in Antwerp are kind and take good care of her.
She feels comfortable there and wishes her family was with her.
Rifka finally gets permission to leave Belgium and go to America! Her hair is still not growing and she is worried. She buys her ticket to America and gets ready to leave. She takes a small ship so she doesn't have to ride in steerage. She is learning English.
She wants Tovah and the rest of her family to come to America.
Going to America:
The journey is very rough and they have to wait for another ship to tow them after their engine breaks. Pieter, one of her new friends, is thrown overboard in a storm and drowns.
When they get to Ellis Island, Rifka has to wait for several weeks because the inspectors think she is not going to find a husband if she has no hair. They are waiting to see if her hair will grow. While she waits she takes care of a Polish baby who dies of Typhus (it was an orphan after it's mother died). She also meets Ilya, a boy who doesn't talk much but is very smart. He is let into America after he shows that he can read and talk. Rifka is so happy that she could help him. Rifka is allowed into America once her hair starts to grow. Her family brings her a fancy hat and one of her brothers brings a fancy car to pick her up.
Rifka's poetry changes the minds of all the government officials.