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July 19th, 1922.
Beba Epstein is born.

In 2017, a bundle of Jewish documents was found hidden in Lithuania, which are now being digitized as part of the Edward Blank YIVO Vilna Online Collections. One of them is the autobiography of a secular middle-class Jewish girl in the 1930s, whose life was not unlike that of many children today. While her experience doesn’t reflect the circumstances of every Jewish child at the time, we can learn a lot through her account. But first, let’s meet her!

 

 

This experience will take approximately 2 minutes.
1922
1922
Mussolini’s National Fascist Party comes to power in Italy
Illustration of Beba next to photo of Beba

She was a mischievous
little child…

unbroken plates
falling plates
falling and broken plates
falling and broken plates
broken plates
Beba Crawling
Beba Standing

Hi! My name is Beba Epstein.
I’m a Jewish girl from Vilna, Poland.

(now Vilnius, capital of Lithuania).

Nice to meet you!

photo of Vilna
Drawing of world map
map starting to tear
map with large tear
Beba!
Beba what have you done?
This was your cousin Freydke’s best-in-class geography paper!!!!
Beba Standing
Beba Tearing paper
Beba Tearing paper
Beba Tearing paper

People say I was a naughty child…
I broke and tore everything!

Eyes on black background
Illustration of Beba hiding

Afterwards, I would hide.

My Grandfather used to tell me that I had to behave like a good, religious girl. If not, God would spank me with iron rods
— so I hid from God.

I used to tell lies, tease and tell on people, but now I'm good to most people, especially to my friends and my younger sister, Esye.

Photograph of Beba's class
Photograph of Beba's class that highlight's Beba and her sister Esye
Photograph of Beba's class that highlight's Beba and her sister Esye

I get very upset when I see someone tormenting a living thing. My little brother used to pull our cat’s tail. I couldn’t stand seeing that. I think animals should be treated kindly, especially our pets.

I’m not good to my brother.
He always likes to fight with me and Esye.

drawing of a cat
photo of child and dog
photo of child and dog
photo of child and dog
photo of child and dog
photo of child and dog
photo of 3 children and a dog
photo of child and a cat and a dog
photo of Morris the cat
photo of child playing piano
illustration of cat
photo of sleeping cat
photo of cat with loaves of bread
Cat with caption : I had fun once. It was awful.

I love sports too!
Like ice skating, swimming, and gymnastics. I like to move!

photo of girls gymnastics
photo of children ice skating
photo of track team
Beba cartwheel frame 1
Beba cartwheel frame 1
Beba cartwheel frame 2
Beba cartwheel frame 2
Beba cartwheel frame 3
Beba cartwheel frame 3
Beba cartwheel frame 4
Beba cartwheel frame 4
Beba cartwheel end
Beba ice skating
Beba running

I also love to read! I speak Polish and Yiddish, but I prefer to read in Yiddish. I learned to write very quickly!

Images of notebooks

Oh, yes, before you ask, Yiddish is the language spoken by most Jews who live in Eastern Europe.

winter scene

My mom thinks I’m really stubborn.

I’m not sure why she thinks so...
Beba!
Beba put on a coat!
It's cold outside!
But I feel so warm!
Winter Coat
winter scene
Beba Standing
Beba Standing

I am very loved at home,
but they don’t spoil me
—only when I’m sick—
then I get special privileges.

Speaking of her home, do you want to meet the rest of her family?

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