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When Tema met Moishe. The son of two survivors shares their transcontinental love story

My Mom, Temcia Posalska, and dad, Moishe Bauer, first met in 1938 in Lodz, Poland when one of her first cousins married Moishe’s oldest brother.

Love Tema met Moishe image
Temcia and Moishe, as newlyweds in the Poking, Germany DP camp in 1946; now called Tema and Morris, in Chicago in 1985.

My Mom, Temcia Posalska, and dad, Moishe Bauer, first met in 1938 in Lodz, Poland when one of her first cousins married Moishe's oldest brother. Moishe was instantly smitten with Temcia; however, from Temcia's perspective, Moishe was a bit "rough around the edges."

The following year, the Nazis invaded Poland, and within six months both Temcia and Moishe found themselves living in Lodz Ghetto.  As winter approached in her fourth year living in the ghetto, Temcia realized that she needed new boots to replace her torn and leaking boots if she was going to survive the winter. 

She heard that Moishe was making boots and shoes on the black market.  She went to his apartment on the other side of the ghetto and he measured her for the boots.  She gave him a down payment of half the cost of the boots (monies she had saved by selling her food rations) and was to return weeks later to pay the remaining cost and to retrieve her finished new boots.  However, before she was able to do so, she was deported in December of 1943 to the first of two slave labor camps in which she was imprisoned.

In early 1945, the Allies bombed the second camp.  Temcia was badly injured from the bombing and two Jewish doctors in the camp amputated her right arm at the elbow, doing the amputation without antibiotics and without anesthesia. Amazingly, she survived the amputation and her wound never became infected.

Two months later, as the Russian army approached from the east, the camp was liquidated. After the war, Temcia made her way to Lodz to seek survivors from her family-but she was the only one from her immediate family of 38 to have survived.

One day, Temcia was walking down a street in Lodz and she ran into Moishe-who had been liberated from a sub-camp of Neuengamme by American soldiers. Moishe was shocked to see Temcia as he had mistakenly understood that the transport she was on from Lodz was headed not to a slave labor camp, but directly to Auschwitz.  Moishe had been smitten with Temcia from when they first met in 1938 at Moishe's oldest brother's wedding.  He saw that she was missing her right arm and told her that she need not worry about the future because he would always take care of her.

Temcia and Moishe married in Lodz in1945.  Moishe was skilled as a shoe and boot maker and started to make a living in Lodz for him and Temcia.  After they got wind of a pogrom in another Poland town, Temcia immediately told Moishe that they were not safe in Poland. Within a week, Temcia and Moishe and several other couples paid to have themselves smuggled back across the border into a displaced person's camp in Germany. 

There, they applied to emigrate to Palestine in 1947, but because of Temcia's amputation, she couldn't secure a visa. Moishe refused to go without Temcia and they then applied to go to the United States, Canada, or Australia-anywhere that wasn't in Europe.

Temcia was determined to prove that she would do with one hand what any other wife could do with two hands.  She was especially proud when she received an award one month for having the cleanest home in the DP camp.

Temcia and Moishe wanted to start a family while waiting for visas and Temcia gave birth to a baby boy, Cheal, in 1948.  Temcia, Moishe and Cheal eventually received visas to emigrate to the U.S.  and arrived at Ellis Island in 1949.  Moishe became Morris, Temcia became Tema, and Cheal became Jerry.  The Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society (HIAS) gave them train tickets to Chicago to where they were settled. 

With a loan from the Jewish Agency for Israel, Morris rented a store on Devon Avenue in Chicago and bought shoe repair machinery to set up his own business.

Then, in 1952, Tema and Morris had their second son born, Michael (me), named after Morris' father, Manelah. 

Jerry married in 1971 and Tema and Morris, with indescribable joy, eventually became grandparents to three grandchildren, and later seven great-grandchildren.  After each of them had suffered so much loss, they together rejoiced at their growing family.

Two decades later, Morris was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease.  Tema first handled the situation by herself, but after the disease had progressed, she contemplated putting him in a nursing home. Standing in the parking lot of the last nursing home that my mom and I had visited, Tema looked straight at me and told me that Morris had saved her life and she wasn't going to put him away anyplace. Morris stayed at home and Tema luckily found a live-in aide to help care for him.  Just a few months short of their 50th anniversary, in 1995, Morris passed away in his home surrounded by his family.

Today, Tema remains in the condo she and my dad shared, and she remains mentally sharp with a keen memory of people and events going way back.

Our family celebrated Tema's 100th birthday on May 5, 2016-the same day as Holocaust Remembrance Day.

Michael Bauer, son of Tema and Morris, has long been active in the Jewish, LGBTQ, and women's communities.


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