Tyne & Wear Museums homepage

Contact us

 

Nonek

My visual memories

A photo of Nonek

Nonek was born in Warsaw, Poland. Nonek was studying in Toulouse, France when World War Two broke out. He escaped France and fled to England where he lived in London before moving to Newcastle. He has lived here ever since.

Nonke was interviewed by Anita Wan on 28 June 2006. The interview took place in the participant's home and lasted for 1 hour 44 minutes.

BSL introduction.

Listen to my memories

Leaving France

You need to enable JavaScript, and have the flash player installed to view this media player.

In 1939 when I was cut of from my... the Germans invaded Poland they bombarded Warsaw, I lost contact with my parents. I couldn't get my money. I didn't know what to do so I took a job working as a labourer. They were building an additional explosive factory in Toulouse not far from the University. I got this job but I went to see the professor, actually he was then the Head of the Department, to tell him that I cannot come to the University he asked why and I said I can't pay the fees, he said 'don't worry about the fees the war will not last forever' - its lasted nearly five years!. Anyway I bought myself for the equivalent of about ten shillings, about a half a pound, a second hand bicycle and used to get up half past five in the morning on the way I used to stop for a loaf of bread in the boulangerie, a loaf of bread, and some wine and a piece of steak and I used to work digging trenches for foundations not using a spade, they used what they used in the Middle East to turn over the soil. I was exhausted but being young and in good health I managed somehow. Eventually I advanced because there was a foreman saw me during my break I watched them when they were doing reinforced steel for building. He said, Why do you do this work? If you watch me I will show you you can get a better job, better paid, which I did. After a little while when the building was finished they advertised for people for the lab. I applied and gave as a reference the director of the faculty. I got a job, the job consisted of analysing old batches of explosives. The Germans were very good soldiers there's no doubt about it. The German war machine was first class. They overtook both Britain and France, they were advancing, the chief of the personnel was a man from north of France originally. He came one day and he said to me come to my office I want to speak to you. He said Look in France people are very formal, I better tell you don't believe the official announcements that we have moved to other better prepared positions, the Germans will be here in a few days time I know you are Jewish and so I better tell you if you stay here they won't do anything as long they need you but once they don't need you any more? that is a big question? as a matter of fact I and my colleagues we have a small car, we haven't got any room any more there is four of us, we make to the coast to escape to England. I can be helpful to you, if you don't want to come to work, I will take out your card from the files and destroy it because you are not allowed to leave work without permission, and it was a military regime.

Click to listen

Related themes

Click to view larger version