Up the Creek with a Paddle
by Jane Kendall Photography by Christian Lee
Sophie Weisz Miklos
My American Dream
Imagine growing up in an affluent and stable home, enjoying the privilege of an excellent education, training in dance, skating and languages, and then coming home one day to be greeted by the Nazis. Sophie Weisz was only 16 years old when she and her entire family were whisked away from their beautiful home in Romania to the ghetto, and subsequently to several concentration camps over the period of one year. After enduring many severe beatings, her father was exterminated at the first camp. At the second camp, Sophie and her sister watched their mother be dragged away. They never saw her again.
Sophie was “chosen” to dance for the German soldiers in an outfit fashioned out of paper and gauze bandage ruffles. Her talent bought her more survival time. Toward the end of the war the Germans became weary and let their guard down. Sophie and her sister Agnes finally escaped by covering themselves with a blanket and running through falling bombs to the town of Torn, where they found shelter for two weeks. They spent the next two months hiking and riding trains and buggies till they reached their final destination in Romania. Old friends greeted them, provided housing and food and watched over them until they became stronger. For the next two years Sophie went to the train station every day, hoping to see her parents, relatives and friends arrive. She finally had to come to terms with the fact they all were deceased.
Determined to finish high school, Sophie moved in with two girlfriends to study. When the authorities would not let her make up for the whole year, she went by herself by train to a town three hours away. There she took her exams and completed her studies. After high school, Sophie returned to her parents’ house to live. She gradually began to heal and started dating.
In 1948 she married Andy Miklos, whom she had known since she was 6 years old. She had dreams of moving to America from the time she was a young child. Andy was determined to make Sophie’s dream come true. They embarked on a small ship for a treacherous three-week journey to the United States. Seeing the Statue of Liberty was the culmination of Sophie’s American dream. Andy got a job as a carpenter. Sophie found employment in a doll factory and later a clothing store. Despite many challenges with passports and interrogations by the immigration department, after five years of waiting in angst, a legal hearing granted them eligibility for citizenship. Once they passed the required test they finally became American citizens. Sophie recalled the pride she felt to see their dream turn into a reality. They knew that being citizens of the United States was a great privilege. They felt honored to work and become productive members of their new country.
Another dream was to have a family. After eight years of trying, Sophie and her husband were blessed with a beautiful daughter, Ilene. In order to provide a nurturing environment for her, Sophie had to gather all her strength to function as a “normal” mother. At one point, she sought professional help for her severe anxiety and depression. Sophie is most proud of being able to raise Ilene to be a happy and well-adjusted adult and provide her with a college education.
In 1990 Sophie wrote Paper Gauze Ballerina, the story of her year in the concentration camps and the unbelievable torture she and her family endured. Expressing herself on paper helped with her healing process. Her goal in writing her memoirs was to educate others on the horrors of prejudice and war. Sophie continues to dream of an America where everyone will be treated as equal, regardless of race, religion or gender and of a world where there will be no more war or terrorism.
What Matters Most:
Freedom: You don’t even know what it really means until it is taken from you.
Family: Daughter, Ilene and son-in-law, Michael and two grandchildren, Craig and Ariel.
Contribution: Sophie has given many presentations to school students about her Holocaust experience and has taught fitness classes in her community.
Sophie’s book: Paper Gauze Ballerina is available online at barnesandnoble.com and amazon.com.