One of Melbourne’s grandest romances began on another continent in a different world, in the shadow of history so horrific it can seem a wonder any hope survived. Now married 67 years, Abe and Cesia Goldberg look back on a childhood of shared horrors that gave way to a lifetime of love.
Though they didn’t know it, they had grown up together, both young lives scarred by unimaginable trauma. First they were prisoners in the same ghetto, forced into a Jewish enclave in Poland annexed by the Nazis. They lived three streets apart. In the latter days of World War II, they were both sent to Auschwitz. They saw their parents perish. Through all this, they never met.
“We didn’t know,” recalls Mr Goldberg, who recently turned 90. “We were in Auschwitz and also in the ghetto together but we didn’t know. But even if I knew … my wife is five years younger than I am. A 15-year-old boy doesn’t look at a 10-year-old girl.”
It wasn’t until after the war, at a youth camp in Brussels, that these two orphans of the Holocaust finally met. It began with the simplest of encounters, Mr Goldberg recalls. “I was playing table tennis and she came in.” She was quite taken by the “good looking boy” and those early smitten moments matured into love, and eventually marriage, in 1947. Three years later, as part of the wave of Jewish migrants to Australia in the post-war period, they boarded a boat to Melbourne, a place about which they knew little other than that it put all the distance possible between their old lives and their new one.