Hands belong to granddaughter Melanie Ksienski, who is wearing her grandmother’s bracelet.
Born October 22, 1930 | Warsaw, Poland
Her survival was in large part due to luck, tenacity and sheer will to survive.
The only child born to Matjas and Maria Garfinkiel, Nina was the beautiful granddaughter of one of Poland’s wealthiest industrialists. When Germany began bombing Warsaw on September 1, 1939, she and her mother fled to an aunt’s country villa. They hoped to get to Romania, but the border was sealed so they went to Soviet-occupied Lvov (now Lviv) instead. When they refused Russian citizenship, Nina and her mother were declared enemies of the state and transported to Siberian labour camps. Freed by the Soviets in 1941, they made their way to Uzbekistan, where they lived in a mud hut and slept on straw to the lullaby of scurrying rodents. Bold and resourceful, Nina sold soap as well as stray lumps of coal she had scavenged on railway tracks. Betrayed and arrested for trading on the black market, she was eventually freed.
In 1946, Nina and her mother returned to Poland, where they shared an apartment in Lodz with an aunt and cousins they had been with throughout the war. Most of their extended family had been murdered, including Nina’s grandparents and other aunts, uncles and cousins. After travelling to England on an orphans’ transport, Nina lived at a hostel for Jewish girls before sailing to Africa to join her father, who had settled in Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) before the war. Nina completed the last year of high school in Salisbury (now Harare) and married Michael Koval, a Lithuanian Jew, in 1949. They had two children, Debbie and Alan. A champion lawn bowler, Nina competed nationally and internationally. She and Michael settled in Toronto in 1981, joining their children there. Nina worked at Eaton’s, earned numerous lawn bowling medals and represented Canada several times at the Maccabiah Games in Israel. She is blessed with two grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.
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