Meir was born on November 1, 1928 in Korets, Poland. His family lived in a large house, next to an orchard of plums, pears, apples, cherries, and wild berries. At home, Meir’s father, Mr. Kransnostawski, ran his own bakery which specialized in cakes and cookies. Meir loved to wake up early in the morning and sneak into the bakery to get a special treat from the workers.
The Kransnostawskis had four children: Golda was the eldest, then Meir, Hanoch, and Baruch. Meir’s grandmother also lived with the family. At home, the family spoke Yiddish. Like most of the Jews of Korets, the Kransnostawskis kept a kosher home and celebrated the Jewish holidays. The Kransnostawski home was particularly important to the Jewish community because on Fridays before the Sabbath they offered the bakery’s large stone oven to the neighborhood women.
The women would fill the oven with their ceramic cooking pots of meat stew called cholent, and would return on Saturday to retrieve their heated dishes for their Sabbath meals.
TESTIMONY: “FAMILY LIFE”
“…straight out of the oven, hot, with a cup of chocolate milk in the mornings.”
Mr. and Mrs. Kransnostawski believed that a Jewish education was important for their children, so they sent Meir to a private Jewish school. His classes were taught in Hebrew, and Polish was taught as a second language. His studies included Bible and Jewish History. Most of Meir’s friends were Jewish. Though he did have a few non-Jewish friends, Meir was aware that the relationship between the Jewish community and their neighbors was not ideal, and that many people harbored feelings of antisemitism towards Jews.
The Nazi invasion of Poland on September 1, 1939 greatly increased the concerns of the Jewish community. As events unfolded, Korets came under Soviet rule according to conditions of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact . The Soviets immediately nationalized local businesses, including the Kransnostawski bakery. They also nationalized the schools, so that Meir’s Jewish private school became a Soviet state school. The official language at school was now Russian. Meir also studied Polish and German. Hebrew was banned.
During this time refugees arrived in Korets from Nazi occupied territories, with rumors of the persecution of Jews at German hands. Some of the Jews of Korets decided to flee to the east. Meir’s older sister was involved in Zionist youth groups and talked about fleeing to the ancient Jewish homeland in an area called the Mandate for Palestine . Meir’s father considered these options for his family, but ultimately neighbors and friends persuaded Mr. Kransnostawski to stay in Korets as a community leader during these difficult and uncertain times.