This wicker basket is about persecution, flight, hope, and renewal.
My parents, Samuel and Ruth Vogel, bought it in Dzambul, Kazakhstan, where they met and married in 1944. They had separately fled the German invasion of Poland in 1939, traveling eastward into the Soviet Union, through whose open borders more than one million Jews found refuge from Nazi brutality. After spending most of World War II in Siberia, they were able to start moving westward after the Nazi defeat at the Battle of Stalingrad in 1943. I was born in Dzambul in August 1945, soon after the war ended. As my parents made plans to return to Poland, which they did later that year, my father bought a number of kufaika (Soviet Army surplus double-sided quilted coats)—and this wicker basket to hold them—assuming he would find a market for them in Poland. No one wanted the coats in Poland and he discarded them, but kept the basket. Poland was dangerous for returning Jewish refugees, so they fled again, reaching the American Zone in Germany, where we lived until gaining entry to the United States under the 1948 Refugee Act in October 1949.
When the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society (HIAS) arranged our flight to the United States, my parents shipped their quilts, pillows, and such by ship in this wicker basket. The basket stayed in our Norwich, CT home until 1976, when I claimed it as a toy basket after our first child, Kenny, was born. It held his toys and Jon’s in suburban Philadelphia until both grew up.
– Morris Vogel