Autobiography of Beba Epstein

Vilna, Poland, 1933-1934. Autobiography of a young girl

Beba Epstein wrote her autobiography during the 1933-34 school year, when she was attending primary school at the Sofia Gurevich school in Vilna, Poland. She was 11 or 12 years old at the time. She details her family history and her favorite activities in life and in school. Beba’s story was discovered in May of 2017 along with 170,000 pages of pre-war documents that were thought to have been destroyed by the Nazis. Beba’s autobiography provides a look into the life of a vibrant young girl and an insight into the life of Jewish children in Eastern Europe before the Holocaust.

In her autobiography, Beba writes about her life in pre-war Vilna, Poland with her family. She traces her family tree including her religious grandparents, her secular parents, and her three younger siblings Esye, Mote, and Khayim. Beba also talks about what it is like to be a child at the time. Beba attended the Sofia Gurevich school where she loved listening to her teacher read stories. She tells about her summers spent swimming and at summer camps for her poor health. She talks about her favorite activities like going to the cinema and reflects on her time seeing a movie in a theater when she was 4 years old – Uncle Tom’s Cabin, an American silent movie.

Read the full English translation of Beba’s autobiography, or download the full Yiddish original.

The Martynas Mažvydas National Library of Lithuania is the custodian of Beba Epstein’s autobiography, which was digitized with their consent as part of the Edward Blank YIVO Vilna Online Collections project.