Buckfire, Vicky Weisberger
Beregszász (Czechoslovakia), Budapest
Vicky Weisberger Buckfire was born in Beregszász (Berehove), Czechoslovakia in 1937. She was the only child of Ludwig (Layos) and Böszi (Bertha) Weisberger. She attended a Hungarian school and remembers her life to have been quite privileged. Her parents were considerably well off due to her paternal grandfather, Morrie Weisberger, who was the owner of a hotel and a string of apartment complexes in Beregszász. Vicky has few memories of her life in Beregszász. She recalls going to school, going to the shops on Main Street and going to the vineyards with her father. As a child she was very sheltered by her mother. In fact, she was completely unaware that there was a war going on until her father had been conscripted into the Hungarian Army around the year 1944.
On March 19, 1944 Vicky’s life changed forever. The German Army invaded Budapest and her mother’s youngest sister, Florica, was sent to live with them in Beregszász. Florica had originally lived in Michalovce, Czechoslovakia but had to leave because the Jews there were being deported. At that time, Hungary was a neutral territory so she could be safe there. However, when Florica was traveling she was caught by German soldiers and sent to a jail in Budapest. This jail was about ten hours away by train from where the family was staying. Her mother, Böszi Weisberger, decided to go to Budapest and try to get Florica released. Her mother was an American citizen because her father had moved to the United States sometime before 1912 and attained American citizenship. Her mother was hoping that even though she was a Jew, her status as an American citizen would be enough to help persuade the Germans to release her sister, Florica.
Before Böszi Weisberger left for Budapest she arranged for a righteous gentile to take care of her young daughter and pretend to be her daughter’s father. The gentile was asked to take the young girl to Budapest with him a few days after Böszi had left so that they could all go to America together. Vicky does not recall much about the man who transported her other than he was kind and gave her a ham sandwich that she did not want to eat. When they arrived in Budapest, Vicky was united with her mother, Böszi, and her Aunt Florica.
Vicky remembers traveling to the American Embassy with her mother and aunt. They were safe in the Embassy and were given their own apartment. Vicky stayed in the apartment with her mother, her Aunt Florica, and her Aunt Celia who had come to live with them in the embassy. She was the only child there and the American guards took a liking to her. The four of them stayed in the Embassy for a few months. The guards, who enjoyed Vicky’s company, encouraged them to leave because Germany was not going to protect the American Embassy any longer. After knowing this, the family left as soon as they could to find shelter in the Swiss Embassy. Here they were given money and shelter for a few hours.
After receiving money from the Swiss Embassy, Vicky and her family took refuge in an apartment complex safe house. The apartment manager hid them in one of the back rooms. During their stay in the hide out, Aunt Florica, who was only sixteen, became very homesick. She began to miss her parents and wanted to travel back to see them. She asked her two sisters, Böszi and Celia if she could, and eventually they allowed her to. Tragically, Florica and the rest of Vicky’s family living in Czechoslovakia were captured and taken to concentration camps where all of them, including Florica, died.
During this time of peril, Vicky’s mother still protected her and kept her unaware of what was happening. However; even as a child, she knew there was danger around her. She heard bombs go off around the building she was in, and she knew that she was not allowed to leave their small back room. On the rare occasions that her mother would allow them to leave and walk the streets she remembers seeing dead horses, and she also remembers having to memorize a speech to tell any German soldier that confronted her, though none ever did.
On February 13th 1945, Russia liberated Budapest and Vicky, her mother Böszi, and her Aunt Celia were now safe. In April the rest of Hungary was liberated and the family were able to go back home to Beregszász. Once they arrived they were given terrible news. They were told that their entire family who had lived in Czechoslovakia, aside from one of the uncles, had died in the camps. They also learned that Ludwig Weisberger, her father, had died of typhus in Siberia during the war. Her uncle, Bernie, who had survived the terror of Auschwitz, left on the first ship to America without as much as a goodbye.
Vicky was now without most of her family and no longer had a home to stay in. Her mother decided that the best thing to do at this point was to move to Humenne, Czechoslovakia and stay there with an uncle. Now safe, Vicky was enrolled in a Hebrew school in Humenne for two years and even recalls going to a summer camp there. After the two years in Humenne, Vicky and her family were finally able to go to the United States. They traveled by ship to Ellis Island in 1947 and were met by her paternal extended family. From New York, they continued on to live in Omaha, Nebraska.
After reaching the United States Mrs. Buckfire went on to lead a very successful life. She learned English in four short weeks and developed a love of learning. She attended summer camps through the Hidden Children and Survivor Organization and made many good friends.
In 1952 the family moved to Detroit, Michigan. Vicky graduated high school in Detroit and continued on to Wayne State University where she earned a bachelor degree in economics and a teaching certificate. She then continued to pursue a master degree in counseling and guidance. Later on in her thirties, she also went on to study law and became a lawyer. Not only did Mrs. Buckfire lead a very successful life, but also did her children and grandchildren that she loves very much.
Date: November 20th, 2013
Interviewer: Donna R. Sklar
Length: 1hr 2min