Leo's bicycle

Relationship: Child of im/migrant
Leo on his bicycle c.1946 and c.1935
Leo on his bicycle c.1946 and c.1935

Jews had lived in Rymanow, Poland for so long, there are no documents that mention their arrival. A synagogue already existed in the 16th century.  The Jewish population survived plagues, pogroms, and even prospered at times. The German invasion in 1939 was the beginning of the end of this once vibrant community. Approximately 300 Jews from Rymanow survived the war, twenty of them survived the camps. My father, Leo, was one of those lucky few. 

His family was of meager means but because his father sold bicycles in his shop, Leo was fortunate to have one. He even helped to assemble it. That bicycle became a lifeline once Jews were restricted to the city limits and food became scarce. My father took off his Star of David armband and rode to nearby farms to buy bread and potatoes. He hid the money in the bicycle handles in case he was stopped. 

My father shared that story, along with the rest of his Holocaust experience, with thousands throughout northeast Ohio. He felt obligated to speak for those victims who could not speak for themselves. It became his mission to educate all who would listen so that we never forget. 
Leo’s story was not just about the horrors he survived but also about hope, resilience, and gratitude. He was back on a bicycle within a year of liberation. It would be three more years before my father was able to immigrate to America, in 1949, and start anew. He then spent the next seven decades showing all of us how to live a good life. 

Place(s): Rymanow, Poland
Year: 1949

– Sherry Smith

Relationship:  Child of im/migrant Child of im/migrant