AustriaHolocaustSurvivorWhat We Carried

Books and Belt, Vienna, Austria

Jim Lommasson
Jim Lommasson / What We Carried

Evelyn Banko:

When the Nazis occupied Austria in 1936, my parents hoped they would be able to leave Vienna for a safer country. They knew they would need to make a living wherever they went. Reschooling classes on how to design purses and belts were offered. These classes were designed to help immigrants find jobs where they were not fluent in their new country’s language.

Because life was becoming dangerous for Jews, my dad searched options where we could go and where we might be safe. He learned that we could go to Riga, Latvia on a tourist visa, pretending to go on a vacation. 

While there, my father designed purses and my mother sewed them. These purses and belts they sold supported our family while in Riga. 

A Jewish organization arranged for us to live with a Latvian family. 

Eventually, after two tries, we were able to get the papers needed to leave Riga. 

In late August,1940, we traveled through Russia, Manchuria, China and Japan, boarding a Japanese ship to North America. 

We arrived in Seattle, Washington on August 24, 1940. After a few days, we were put on a train to Portland, Oregon. 

My parents found they could not make a living sewing their belts and purses. My mother found a job sewing piece work and my father managed a service station during the war. 

I began my new life as a 4 year old in America.