With the war finally over, Rachel and her sisters, along with many of the other refugees from Poland, decided that they needed to return home. In the spring of 1946, the Polish Army helped bring many of these children back to Poland. They gave the children winter clothes for the cold weather and provided for their passage aboard trains for their long journey home. After a month, a train finally brought Rachel and her sisters to the city of Krakow in Poland.
When the train stopped, Rachel and a few others decided to look for whatever Jewish community remained in the city. She felt that they would offer to give them some help. She searched, and found members of the Dror youth movement who offered to help the forty Jewish children among the orphans on the train. The Dror members secretly arrived with trucks and took the Jewish children to a special Jewish children’s home. At the children’s home, the orphans started to learn Hebrew songs and had lessons about Zionism. They were preparing the children for aliya . Slowly, they also let the children know more about the terrible things that had happened in Poland during the war.
Later, Rachel and her sisters were transferred to a Displaced Persons (DP) Camp in Germany, and then they were taken to France, in preparation for their aliya . The aliya had to be a secret because at this time the British governed the area, then known as the Mandate for Palestine , and strictly limited immigration. As a result, Jewish immigration was in violation of British law. This “illegal” immigration was called Ha’apala .
One night in July 1947, the sisters were expected to begin their journey. Unfortunately, Chanka became ill and was unable to travel, but both Rachel and Zvetla climbed into a truck and secretly made their way to the port. They trusted that Chanka would stay in France to recover, and then join them shortly.
When Rachel and Zvetla arrived at the port, they boarded an old, run-down passenger steamship called the “Exodus.”
TESTIMONY: “THE EXODUS”
“We didn’t know where we were sailing…”
After the ordeal of trying to emigrate on the “Exodus,” the sisters found themselves back in Germany, once again living temporarily in a DP camp. The camp was crowded with boys and girls, and very chaotic. After two months, Rachel and Zvetla were sent to a more structured camp, where representatives of the Haganah gave them training to prepare them for their new lives.
Rachel and Zvetla stayed in the DP camps in Europe until February 1948, when they were finally able to successfully leave on a comfortable passenger ship, called the “Providence.” Meanwhile, Chanka also left from France later that same year.
In May 1948, the State of Israel was declared as an independent, Jewish state.
After making aliya , Rachel and her two sisters established new lives in Israel on a kibbutz . It was difficult for Rachel to learn Hebrew and adjust to her new surroundings. Fortunately, another young survivor named Fiveke took interest in her and wanted to help. Together, Rachel and Fiveke helped found the Ghetto Fighters’ kibbutz in 1949, married, and started a family. Rachel’s sisters both joined her on the kibbutz , vowing to never separate again.