From the moment Claire was born, April 18, 1940, her parents tried every means to give her away. Hitler was approaching her home town of Nadworna, Poland, and Claire's parents believed they would all have a better chance of surviving if their newborn infant could be hidden. Every time they found someone to take the baby, the parents would find her on their doorstep the next morning. For 2-1/2 years, they desperately tried
to give their child to anyone - Polish, Gentile, whoever would take her.
Finally, with nothing else to do, her father was walking with Claire along a back country road when he came upon a youg woman who seemed to be aimlessly walking. He begged her to take the baby. She agreed. He told her that if someone should come after the war to claim her, she was to give the baby up. The woman accepted baby Claire. As it turned out, the woman's own baby daughter, also 2-1/2 years old, had died a week before. Baby Claire went home with the woman to the little cottage she and her husband shared. It was there Claire spent the next 4 years of her young life. According to Claire, this was a time spent with loving parents.
She was baptized Vango Klimik and raised as-a Catholic. Her Polish "mother" registered her name in the Catholic Church and at the same time added Claire's Jewish name to the list of Jewish dead. This very deed saved Claire's life several years later when the family was accused of hiding a Jewish child. Her life with the Polish couple was happy even though there were times of sadness and danger. She was beaten and ostracized by the village children. Perched in a tree she_ _ witnessed Nazi soldiers storm through the village and ransack, rape and murder the villagers in their way. She even watched in horror as 2 Nazis ripped a baby apart; then threw the 2 halves of the body on the ground near its dead mother.
When at last the war was over, a strange woman appeared at the family's cottage. Claire was not told who it was. The woman stayed with the family for a while and after many secretive discussions, Claire was told she was going on a 2 week vacation with the woman. The woman as it turned out was Claire's natural mother, and the vacation was a return to her previous identity. After Claire had been with this woman for 2 weeks, she told her that she was ready to go home. The women then told her that she was her natural mother, and Claire would never return to the Polish family again.
Hitler may have been over but for Claire her real hell was just beginning. Claire's mother was mentally abusive to her, screaming that Claire should have died during the Holocaust and not her father. Claire's growing up years with her mother were ones of agony until she was able to leave the house and get married.
After marriage the misery did not stop. Her family and marital life was dysfunctional, and to this day, she lives in great turmoil. It was only after she attended a conference on the Hidden Children in New York City that she realized she was not alone and that many others had similar experiences and lives like hers.
Interviewed by Jane Rushesky