By the time she arrived at Ellis Island with her husband and son on Nov. 19, 1947, Holocaust survivor Marysia Green had experienced in her 30 years enough to fill several lifetimes.
On May 1, the proud Jewish woman who twice broke out of prison while evading the Nazis celebrated her 100th birthday with friends and family in Coconut Grove.
“I’m getting old,” she said. “It’s hard when you get old. Otherwise, I go through life.”
Born Marysia Skura in Sosnowiec, Poland, she met her future husband, Isio Green, in Budapest, Hungary, in December 1943. Despite living in constant fear and being isolated from their families, the two fell in love and married on March 12, 1944.
“When you get married, you think about your future,” said Dr. Jacqueline Green, their daughter. “They didn’t have a future to think about. I’ve asked my mother, ‘What were you thinking?’ Her answer was, ‘We were in love, we wanted to be together, and when you want to be together, you get married.’ In that crazy time — in a war-torn country — it gave them a sense of normality.”
For two years, the couple moved throughout Europe, trying to stay one step ahead of the Nazis and local authorities amid daily bombings. In August 1944, they were separated while crossing into Romania. Marysia was taken to a Gestapo headquarters in Szeged, Hungary. Isio went to Budapest and sent information to her about a party the German prison guards were planning. During the drunken soirée, she snuck out.
But her freedom was short-lived. In October, they were arrested in Nagywarod, Hungary, and spent three weeks in prison before the Gestapo put them on a train to Budapest. When it stopped and debarked to avoid bombings, Isio and another prisoner ran for the woods.
“I hated leaving Marysia on the train and I was afraid for us both,” he wrote. “But I knew that it would be easier to help her escape from the outside.”
Isio convinced his old landlord, Mancy Nemeth, to bring Marysia pills that would give her an allergic reaction resembling scarlet fever. She was taken to a nearby hospital, where she slipped by guards and escaped.
They were in Bucharest, Romania, when the war ended. In July 1945, they returned to Budapest and learned that Nemeth had been critically injured by a bomb that killed a Jewish couple who’d moved into their former quarters.
In September, while in Poland, news arrived that Marysia’s parents, sister, two brothers and nephew were among more than a million Jews who perished in Auschwitz. On Dec. 29, 1946, Marysia gave birth to their son, Bert, in American-controlled Munich, Germany.
“Jews go through difficulties all the time, but we will never disappear,” Green said. “We never give up. We always come back.”
Months later, Green recognized a Gestapo officer on the street and reported him to the CIA and German police. He denied everything until she told an officer to ask him about a cleaning woman, Mrs. Gertner, whom he’d sent to Auschwitz with her husband and son because she’d once left dust on his desk. The information led to a confession, and he was sentenced by a Polish criminal court to life in prison.
The Greens needed work upon arriving in Manhattan. To practice dentistry would require Isio to attend three more years of college, which they couldn’t afford. Instead, they founded an export business with Marysia’s brother, Sam, and sister-in-law, Stella. On Dec. 11, 1953, Marysia gave birth to Jacqueline. Three years later, they bought their first house.
“Though they had a lot of tragedy and loss in their lives, it was never a sad household,” said Jacqueline Green, an ophthalmologist. “They had a lot of joy in spite of their early tragedy.”
The business grew, and in 1967 they purchased an eight-story commercial building on Broadway in downtown Manhattan. Bert became a cardiologist. He lives in Seattle, Washington, with his wife and three children. Jacqueline lives in Miami with her husband and two daughters. Isio and Marysia retired to Palm Beach in the late ‘90s. In 2005, he died at age 94.
Today, Marysia Green lives in a beautifully decorated 17th-story Coconut Grove condo adorned with artwork and photos of friends and family. Curious, outgoing and active, she still possesses much of the spunk from her youth. Last year, she began taking art history and Yiddish classes at the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute.
“I knew Yiddish better than my teacher,” she said. “I told him, ‘I will teach you.’”