Birthdate: August 25, 1941
Birthplace: Vilnius, Lithuania
Religious Identity: Jewish
“I was locked up there, and the reason I was like that was because I was born Jewish and I was not supposed to be alive.”
Shulamit was born shortly after the Nazis seized power in Vilnius. Her parents made the difficult decision to give their daughter to someone else to protect her from being killed by the Nazis. She was given to a Polish Catholic nun, and was kept in a basement where she was deprived of nourishment and nurturing. She was hidden for the first three years of her life, and now credits that nun with saving her life. Shulamit’s parents were sent to a small labor camp, they survived the war but many of their immediate family were killed. After her parents were liberated they began looking for their daughter, as did many families who had placed their children in the care of others. After liberation, Shulamit was left on a riverbank by the nun where a Lithuanian man found her and took her to an orphanage. There she was given a new name, until just by chance her father walked into the orphanage and was able to identify her from a birthmark. She was very malnourished and did not look like the baby they had seen just a few years before. After being reunited with her parents they returned to Poland. It took her a long time to get readjusted to life outside of the basement, and she says her parents had to learn how to be parents again as well. In 1959, Shulamit traveled to Israel where she lived for 5 years and served in the Israeli army. She then immigrated to the United States in 1963. She began learning English and finished high school, and was later accepted to the University of Pittsburgh where she earned her Bachelor’s degree and Master’s degree in Social Work, and then worked for 5 years in the field of Geriatric Social Work. She developed a teddy bear project where children collect and distribute teddy bears to those who are not fortunate enough to have them. She has been speaking and sharing her story with children and adults for 30 years, and in her presentation she speaks against ignorance, hate, and prejudice.
“She’s one of the reasons why I speak, to honor her for saving my life.”
Read her full testimony here.