1917 Goworowo, Poland
Siberian Forced Labor Camp
February 4: Reva Oks was born in Goworowo, Poland. She was the middle daughter of three.
Germany invaded Poland. Reva’s older sister was already married with two children. Her sister’s husband had left Poland, but didn’t have time to send papers for her sister, so she stayed in her home with her children, ages seven and three.
One Friday morning her father left to get Shabbat candles and didn’t come back. He was rounded up with other Jews and locked into a synagogue. They were left there for hours and thought they would be burnt to death when the building was set on fire, but were finally released.
Summer: German soldiers rounded up her family and the other Jews and took them to a big lot. There they put them in a line and said “you on this side and you on this side, you on this side and you on this side.” It seemed to be a process of selection, but all were let go. Afterwards, they decided to leave and walked to Bialystok, which took a week. There they lived in a yeshiva, a school for studying Jewish texts, for two months. Reva’s parents sent Reva and her younger sister to Russia to scout for safe places to live. Before they could return, Russian soldiers put them on a cattle train to Siberia to a forced labor camp. Meanwhile, her parents, older sister and her children were living in a “safe” town near the Russian border. Germans shot and killed them there.
Reva and her sister were forced to move coal and cut trees at the labor camp. They had very little food and were very cold. Reva got malaria and fell ill.
Reva and her sister were liberated and made their way back, only to find that they were the last family members still alive. They wanted to return to Poland, but found it impossible.
Reva met her husband, Jack Oks, in Germany. Jack was working in a raisin factory. Reva’s daughter, Fay, was born in a small town outside of Munich, Germany.
Reva, her husband and daughter, and her sister came to New York, then to Memphis. Reva had cousins who lived in Memphis; they helped Reva’s family to immigrate.
Jack Oks died March 21 in Memphis, Tennessee.
Reva Oks died February 27 in Memphis, Tennessee.