Lissa Streusand had fond memories of her childhood in Wołkowysk, Poland in the 1920s and ’30s. Although her family lived simply—drawing water from a well and sewing their own clothes—they always had enough to eat. On Jewish holidays, all of the relatives gathered to feast, sing and pray.
As the 1930s drew to a close, Lissa remembered that “a dark cloud was surrounding Poland.” Germany had already overtaken Austria and Czechoslovakia and many assumed Poland would be next. Fortunately, Lissa’s mother Peshka had several siblings in the United States. After a 1932 visit to Wołkowysk, Uncle Manuel had vowed to help Lissa’s family join him in America. Seven years later, the paperwork was finally in order and Lissa’s family prepared to leave. It was a difficult and painful parting. Despite his intense efforts, Manuel had been unable to secure permission for Lissa’s uncle Yosel and his family to come to America. Lissa’s grandmother, older and more set in her ways, chose to stay behind in the town that had always been her home. "I had to say goodbye to my grandmother," says Lissa. "We embraced, hugged each other, cried, hugged each other again. And she asked me to write and I said I would and I promised her I would be back and see her again. But I never did."
For Lissa, the journey to America was a revelation. The family, accustomed to having little more than the bare necessities, suddenly found themselves aboard a luxury liner sampling unfamiliar delicacies such as oranges. Lissa and her family arrived in the United States in August 1939. The following month Germany and the USSR invaded and dismembered Poland. Wołkowysk fell into the Soviet zone of occupation. Lissa was able to correspond with her relatives until the summer of 1941 when German troops overran Poland as they moved eastward into the USSR. After that, Lissa lost contact with the family members who had stayed behind. None survived the Holocaust.
Lissa’s family settled into life in Houston with the generous assistance of Manuel who helped them find an apartment and jobs. When the United States entered World War II in December 1941, Lissa’s brothers proudly fought for their adopted country. Lissa married Fred Streusand in 1945 and they had three children. After Fred’s premature death, Lissa raised the children on her own and established a career in accounting and business management. After retiring, she wrote her memoirs. Lissa’s children, eight grandchildren and two great-grandchildren gave her much joy.
George (b. Gdalia) Kantor, survived
Peshka Rudy Kantor, survived
Louis (b. Lazer), survived
Howard (b. Chaim), survived
Rita (b. Roza), survived
Annette (b. Anya), survived