Ruth Bolliger-Survivor Bio
Ruth Bolliger was born on March 18, 1938, in Bohemia, in the Czech Republic. Her mother did not have a job because she had received only four out of the five requisite years in medical school due to the war.
Ruth’s father was raised and educated as a Bohemian, which was the German part of
Czech. There, he had attended German speaking schools and became a research chemist,
working at a research company when Ruth was born.
Ruth’s parents knew they had to get out of Bohemia when anti-semitism started to
become prevalent, so they moved to a town near Prague. Her father was able to go to
Prague because he had been born there, but Ruth’s mother hired a moving van and hid in
the furniture to smuggle herself into Prague. Because Ruth was a small baby at the time,
her size made it easy to sneak her in. When
Ruth was about a year old, her family was able to get an exit visa out of Prague.
From Prague, they went to Belgium and then to France, living mostly on the go and in
hiding during those times. When bombs started falling in northern France, Ruth and her
mother moved to England for five months and her mother started a job.
When England entered the war, they took a ship back to France and started
making their way south towards Marseille, where Hitler had promised he would not
invade. Throughout their travels through central France, Ruth and her family lived in
barns, moving around from one place to another. During this time, Ruth’s grandfather
had received an offer to teach at NYU, giving him a reason to immigrate safely, while
her grandmother stayed behind. When Kristallnacht happened on November 9, 1938,
Ruth’s grandmother had been given a tip that something bad was about to happen, so she
hired a car to drive her to Vienna, where she barely survived until she was able to join her
husband in New York.
A friend of Ruth’s grandfather was able to send Ruth and her parents enough
money to get them out of Europe and onto a ship headed for America. To get the money,
however, Ruth’s mother had to make a risky journey to another part of France where
Jews weren’t allowed. She took the night train to Lyon, sneaking into catholic churches
where no one would expect a Jew to be hiding. After her frustrating journey, Ruth’s
mother returned with the money and their family was able to get onto one of the last
boats out of Marseille. They sailed along with 250 other families in the hold of a cargo
ship for about a month, until they reached Martinique. There, they lived in a camp for
refugees for another month, when they were finally able to board another ship to the
Dominican Republic, and eventually to New York.
Ruth had grown up surrounded by global panic and her first memories were those
of being scared. Her family was tired and weary when they arrived in New York, with all
of their possessions in a wicker trunk. After her grandparents took them into their home,
Ruth’s father was able to find a job in a chemical factory in Queens and her mother
worked many odd jobs cleaning toilets and working at JC Pennys, but she was never able
to finish medical school. When Ruth was seven, her younger sister, Margaret, was born
and together they grew up in Queens. Ruth attended Oberlin College, and she now lives
in Portland, Oregon where she works as a hospice nurse and has raised three daughters.