My mother worked alongside her servants.
She was first to rise, to get their work ready.
My father was highly respected.
He handled the banking of Serbs and Croats alike,
and proudly paraded his Romanian wife
Before the rest of the Jewish community.
He was killed in an early pogrom.
We washed in snow when there was no water.
My mother knew how to remain a human being,
and so my brother and I did too.
One day, wearing crosses and amazement,
we accepted the profound apologies
of concentration camp authorities
who were sorry that they’d taken us for Jews.
We walked out the gates of Sajmište camp in Belgrade.
Free. Then, we lived in Turkey,
where I studied and tutored until
My mother found me a scholarship
only for Baptists, and I went to college in Iowa,
still not a Jew.
There I met the son of an Illinois businessman,
and we married, had children. My husband,
whose fine mind was troubled and troubling
kept disappearing, left me with our children,
No house, and no job.
But I had been washed in the snow in the winter,
And so we survive.
Today I sell Avon,
sip tea with my buyers and
listen to troubles of women I sell to.
I walk as a Jew, with my children beside me.
This poem is based on the life of Coca Sultana Greenblatt,as she narrated it to me, one of her Avon customers in the 1970s in Cleveland Heights, Ohio. The poem is based on a true story but there is some poetic license in the details. Coca died on January 7, 2010, at the age of 79. She is survived by her sister Dolly, her daughter Edy Greenblatt, her son Kim Greenblatt and two grandchildren.
According to most public records, there are no Jewish survivors from Sajmište concentration camp near Belgrade. The four survivors that the Greenblatt/Pavlovitch family know about were Coca Sultana, her mother Ethel, her brother Daniel and her sister Dolly. Daniel’s testimony is documented under interview code #11985 – Daniel Pavlovitch in the Spielberg collection at the Shoah Foundation in Los Angeles but he called the campSemlin so that’s how it is cataloged.
However. as far as the family knows. no one has integrated the data recorded on this camp because it was variously referred to as Semlin, Zemlin, Zemun, Sajmiste and other titles with these words in them. The family is starting to work on this and needs help. If you would like to help or learn more about this camp, contact the Online Testimony Cataloge at the Shoa Foundation at http://tc.usc.edu. Or you may contact me, Marguerite Beck-Rex, at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will help the family make contact with you.