Elsa Arsic was born on July 1st, 1936, in West Prussia, in a small town called Grutschno. Elsa describes her time in Germany, constantly moving in an attempt to survive the war, with her younger sister, born in 1943, and her mother. Her father served in the German military, was wounded in the battle of Stalingrad, and killed in battle in Hungry in 1945. After the war Elsa’s mother wrote to her aunt and uncle, who lived on a farm in the United States. In 1956 the family was sponsored by the Lutheran Church and Elsa’s mother, despite Elsa’s displeasure, moved the family to her aunt and uncles farm in Ashtabula. Elsa and her sister resided at the farm for about 3 months while her mother found work as a housekeeper in Cleveland. Eventually, Elsa and her sister moved to Cleveland with their mother where Elsa worked for the Cleveland Overall Company and then eventually Hertner Electric. In June 1960 she met her husband, Bozin Arsic, at a dance hall. They bought their house in December of 1960, got married in January of 1961, and then they had their first of three children in February of 1962.
Arsic, Elsa (interviewee)
Donaldson, Hannah (interviewer)
Cleveland German-American Oral History Project
"Elsa Arsic interview, 01 September 2021" (2021). Cleveland Regional Oral History Collection. Interview 195009.
Hannah Donaldson [00:00:01] So my name is Hannah Donaldson and today is September 1st, twenty twenty one, and I'm here with Elsa Arsic. And could you tell me, you know, when you were born, what it was like growing up in your childhood?
Elsa Arsic [00:00:15] OK, I was born in West Prusia, which in German it's called Westpreussen and it's belongs to Poland. And my father and my mother, they were the fourth generation live in. They in West Prussia and they immigrated. I was born in a little town, but the midwife or something helped me get in born and the little town was called Grutschno.
Hannah Donaldson [00:00:59] How would you spell that?
Elsa Arsic [00:01:00] G R U T S C H N O. And I don't remember. But my mom said it was five minutes away from the river Weiachsel. W E I A C H S E L is the river. And from there they immigrated, two years later in 1938, they immigrated to Mecklenburg. Mecklenburg is belongs to Germany all the time. It's the old Prussia where Kaiser Wihelm was in Berlin and so Mecklenburg is spelled M E C K L E N B U R G.
Elsa Arsic [00:02:03] They came with the at that time the city Danzig in Poland was a free city. It so they came to the ship from Danzig to Bismark to make Mecklenburg. And there my mother had the aunt who helped her to get with the paperwork to get into Germany. So that was in thirty eight.
Hannah Donaldson [00:02:35] Was there a particular reason they emigrated? Was there a particular reason that they immigrated to Germany?
Elsa Arsic [00:02:41] They felt that there was since Hitler became ruler in Germany in the 30s, that there was a lot of hate built up that the Polish people, they were before friends with all the neighbors and stuff and they were. There became a lot of hate between the Poles and the Germans, and they really just kind of feared for their lives. And there was a lot of things happening that the Poles attacked the Germans. And so that was the reason they wanted to come into Germany to be safe. And so then they went to Germany into Mecklenburg. And so we lived there. Till, till 1945
Hannah Donaldson [00:03:43] And when were you born?
Elsa Arsic [00:03:44] I was born in 36, so 38 they immigrated and my father in Mecklenburg just worked for a farmer and my mom also and we just had animals like pigs and chickens and ducks and geese and and had a big garden. But my dad used to work for a big farmer for with the horses, and my mother also had to work in the fields for the pig farmer. So for that, we had our apartment where we live and my dad got, I'm sure, paid or whatever. So in 1940. My father was put into the service, into the German military. Eventual from we were near the city of Neubrandenburg in a little town called Wulkenzin. That town is spelled W U L K E N Z I N. And we lived there till forty five. And then my dad in the service, he first he was in Denmark and then later he was on the Russian front in the Stalingrad Battle where he got wounded. And after that, he was in a veterans hospital in Germany, not too far where we lived from Wulkenzin. And we could visit him on some days, me and my mom. And then in nineteen forty three, my little sister got born Christmas 1943. And my dad had to get really again, get in to be shipped out to Hungary.
Hannah Donaldson [00:06:29] So he was shipped out right after your sister was born?
Elsa Arsic [00:06:31] Yeah. So my sister my mom I remember my mom was in the hospital having the baby, and I was by neighbors that kept me. And my dad came during the night on his way to Hungary. He kept came and looked at me sleeping, and he never woke me. And he kept on going with the train day when he went on towards the Russian front to Budapest. And there he was till in 1944, Christmas. Where again was a big battle with the Russian and they had again, just like in Stalingrad circled the city of Budapest and all the German army was destroyed in there. And we never have any final notice. We only had from the Red Cross that he was missing in action. That was after 45 when we didn't hear nothing from him. And there's supposed to be a whole summit here in Budapest with all the German soldiers who got lost. And so in 1945. March and April, we were in our town Wulkenzin my mom, me and my little sister, who was about a year a little over a year, and we went with the also how the Russian front came closer into Germany. So we were. Signed up to with our German army to, to, flee from the Russians and we fleed with our Rus, with our German army we fleed towards the west, our soldiers, our army, our soldiers wanted to be get into the American like being a prisoner of war. With the American. Everybody feared the Russians. So we landed by Schwerin. It's still is Mecklenburg and we landed there. But in, what is it? April 9th when the war was over and the American and the Russians got together and the World War was over and our German soldiers who we were traveling with
Phone [00:09:46] *The phone rings*
Elsa Arsic [00:09:48] Let it be, will be on that. Let it be. They were on a. Yeah, our German soldiers went with a white flag on their truck. They went toward the, American to be on on American hands and we were all left in the woods there. And they told us to go into town and get the farmers to help us. So we were in the woods hiding. And then the Americans still came down with the airplanes shooting left and right. The bullets were flying next to me. I was always pullin the wagon with my little sister in it and my mom went already to town to get the farmer to get us into town. And then the farmer came and we heard we heard on the streets, the tanks rolling like that, the Army American and the sold- and the Russians. That's where they met there. So we heard we knew it was over. And so then the farmers came with the wagon and they took a bunch of us. We were all women with little, little children that our German soldiers took in to flee from the Russians. So the, the farmers came and they loaded us up and they brought us into their school. So that town was called Rosenow r o s e n o w. And that's by Schwerin. Schwerin always was the kind of the capital city from Mecklenbrug like Columbus is here for Ohio.
Hannah Donaldson [00:12:05] Yeah.
Elsa Arsic [00:12:05] Yeah. So that was close there and we were still under the American hands. And then after a couple of weeks there was this meeting that with the big shots with Roosevelt, Churchill and Stalin, and they made out that the Russians could have 600 kilometers, that the Americans could pull back 600 kilometers and give it to the Russians. And we were in that strip of land. So we became again under the Russians and we were there till October. But the Russians were not that, uh, mean, anymore. They were already, like, more civilized or more controlled or whatever. So in October 1945, we went with the train from Schwerin back to Neubrandenburg. Where we came from to Wulkenzin. And it probably took a couple, a couple of days because the Russians took all the for the rail, the trains that they go on,
Hannah Donaldson [00:13:35] The Railroads?
Elsa Arsic [00:13:37] Yeah, the railways. The Russians damaged everything they took. They took it apart. So we were stuck here and there. And my mom always had to go to the pharmacy and get milk for my little sister. And so it was, we were probably a week on the road till we got back to Neubrandenburg. And then we were again till January 96. I mean, 46. We were in Wulkenzin where we came from and there was nothing there for us anymore. So next town was a town that was called Zirzow Z I R Z O W. And that used to be a Landesgut. That means that one person owned it like and they were fleeing and they were gone already. So this land was all getting. The Russians did this now. We bombed the Russian control, so the Russians divided all the land in 25, 24, more in the land, which is I don't know how many acres it is.
Hannah Donaldson [00:15:13] I don't know either.
Elsa Arsic [00:15:17] And then my mom took this piece of land and we moved to this town. Zirzow in January 46. And there this town was also completely demolished, they used to have Russian prisoners of war over there working for them. And they were kind of mistreated by the Germans and those Russians who were prisoners of war there. They burned down the whole thing. They burned down the stables with the horses, the stables with the cows. They burned down everything because they were full of hate from the Germans and they burned down all the machinery. So there was just really the bare land.
Hannah Donaldson [00:16:20] Right.
Elsa Arsic [00:16:21] And then slowly, my mom still always had to get milk for my little sister, from the farmer here and there. And then my sister developed a, a, a sickness in her hair like scalp. The scalp was really getting infected. And it was I don't know how to say it, but you couldn't comb her hair or nothing. It was stuck together.
Hannah Donaldson [00:16:58] Oh.
Elsa Arsic [00:16:59] And that was from the different milk that she always had from different cows. So my mom went back to Schwerin where we were that summer in Rosenow. And she bought a cow there.
Hannah Donaldson [00:17:17] Wow.
Elsa Arsic [00:17:19] And she leeded the cow for six weeks on the road coming back. To Zirzow with the cow with our cow.
Hannah Donaldson [00:17:34] And were you watching your sister during that time?
Elsa Arsic [00:17:37] My sister, I was watching my sister. And we also had some aunts who also came 1945 who were fleeing from the Russians who were still in Poland, and they were fleeing from them. So they were also with us in Zirzow. And they also took this piece of land. Like I said, everybody took a piece of land. So my mom brought the cow home. So we had our own thing. So and my mom also bought a horse in Zirzow. No, in, in, Rosenow where we were this summer over. She bought also a horse. So we had already a horse and a cow. And as my mom was half way, from Schwerin to Neubrendenburg with the cow leading, she called my aunts to come with the horse to come towards her and when they came with the wagon and with the horse to pick up my mom, with the cow. Then a Russian truck with, full with soldiers hit them on the road.
Hannah Donaldson [00:19:21] Oh my god.
Elsa Arsic [00:19:22] And the wagon was destroyed and the Russians were with the guns trying to shoot my mom and the aunts. But they had Russian women. We called them flintenweiber. I don't know what to say. Like women who are with the soldiers.
Hannah Donaldson [00:19:40] Yeah.
Elsa Arsic [00:19:41] And a, with like a soldier. Women, and those women, those Russian women saved my mom's life. They took the guns from the soldiers and shot it in the air.
Hannah Donaldson [00:19:58] It's okay. Take your time.
Elsa Arsic [00:20:02] So everything was gone, the horse, the wagon, and all that again. And my mom kept on walking with the cow. The rest of the way to Neubrendenbrug.
Hannah Donaldson [00:20:16] Your mom is a tough woman.
Elsa Arsic [00:20:18] She was a tough one. You could really only survive if you were tough. You could not make it otherwise. So OK, so we had the cow and the cow after awhile got pregnant and we have another baby cow. And then so slowly we and we had we became to have chicken and little ducks and goose and all that in Zirzow. Only it was very hard for us because we didn't have a a dad. I missed my dad all my life, probably the worst as a kid because I had to do all this work. My mom was always out in the fields working and she used to hire help from the city to help her with the harvesting and all. And I always had to watch all the cows feed all the chicken da da da. Watch my little sister have my little sister on the hand. And when there was things coming up, I have to take out of school sometimes two weeks in a row when they were digging out the potatoes or when they were threshing the corn and all that. I had to kind of always be home and I had to cook for all the people I was just eleven, twelve years old. I have to cook for all the workers, bring it out in the field, all the basket with sandwiches, and always with my little sister on the hand. So it was really a very hard life.
Hannah Donaldson [00:21:55] It sounds it.
Elsa Arsic [00:21:56] And then so we were there till 1953 from 46 to 53. It seemed to be that it was always seven, seven years, seven years in Wulkenzin the first thing seven years in Zirzow. So then when we were in Zirzow also on the farm there my mom had a aunt here in America, and, and she remembered the address in her head. So she wrote them after the war this aunt on the farm. And they used to, they started sending us packages like with shoes. We always had to with our foot be on a piece of newspaper and we cut out the form with our feet so they could buy us the right shoes. And clothes. And they also mail used to mail coffee, the 8:00 coffee beans. And, and the Camel Cigarettes. And that was over there that used to bring good money. So my mom went with the cigarettes, and with the coffee she went to Berlin. And the restaurants and sold that for money, sold it, so that helped us somewhat. So then we always kind of had in mind go on America go on to America. OK, so in 1953 then I was already 17. We went from East Germany to West Germany, though there was a time where they gave passes that you could visit West Germany. And so we had my mom had other relations in West Germany and they made us a pass so we could go to West Germany. That was in October 1953. And then we just did not return back to East Germany. So we stayed in West Germany. And it was in the beginning also, we had to be kind of be on wellfare to begin with a little bit. But then I started to work and they built a new factory. Siemens, Siemens-Schuckertwerke its Siemens is big, like General Electric over here.
Hannah Donaldson [00:25:01] Okay.
Elsa Arsic [00:25:01] So. So, I went and they hired me, so I was in Siemens. And that was, a little, the next town I have to go two stops with the train to work. We were in West German. We were in the town called Kups. K, U with the dots P, S. And that's by the city of Kronach K, R, O, N, A, C, H it's Oberfranken and that's close to Thuringen and close to the East German border. So that's where we were in West Germany. And then like I said, I got the work with Siemens and that town was called Redwitz. R, E, D, W, I, T, Z. So I was there two and a half years by Siemens working, on the, on the press on the automatic press. It was a porcelain factory and but the department that I worked in, it was not porcelain, it was called statit. But I made was those, for the light switches, that is inside the light switch that housing inside and you take off the plastic cover.
Hannah Donaldson [00:26:31] Yeah.
Elsa Arsic [00:26:31] That housing. That's the, what I pressed with the machine.
Hannah Donaldson [00:26:38] Okay.
Elsa Arsic [00:26:38] So I had to be I mean,
Hannah Donaldson [00:26:41] Very strong.
Elsa Arsic [00:26:42] I had to be well it was automatic, so I just had to fill the container up with, with the material, kind of like flour, stuff like floury. But it was not floury. It was not porcelain, it was called statit. S, T, A, T, I, T. That means it was not dangerous, like porcelain. Porcelain, the dust goes on your lungs and you can end up with lung problems later. But this was not this was a little bit safer than that. So that's what I worked on the machine. And then I had the ladies next to me and they were cleaning the grates around, cleaning it clean. And then it used to go on tablets in the oven and it was burned in the oven. And that time we did that for England. They had a contract contacted us. So I did that for two and a half years. And I liked it. It was good. It was good. I made good money and I became friends with other girls and stuff.
Hannah Donaldson [00:27:59] Yeah.
Elsa Arsic [00:28:00] And I really kind of liked it. I would have stayed there. I felt really good. And then my mom, with we came right when we came in 53. As soon as we came into West Germany, my mom went right away to Munich which had the American Council, and she signed us up for the United States to immigrate. So then it came through. After three years, we had to wait till our quota numbers. They only used to allow so and so many people into the land. So then after almost three years, they our number came on and we had to decide, are we going to go to America or not? And my mom always was like a good farmer and she kind of looked forward to maybe taking over this farm from her aunt, OK?
Hannah Donaldson [00:29:08] Okay.
Elsa Arsic [00:29:08] They had no kids. And so she figured so. And I really kind of had to do what my mom said. I mean, I was twenty years old at that time. I could have stayed there myself. I would'v love to, but I have to kind of do what my mom said, OK? And my sister was twelve and I was twenty and my sister, my mom was about forty five. So then we made out. Yes, we going to go to the States. So we had to go to the council again to Munich, and they interviewed us and this and that, however it goes. So, so then we had to, we we came on a ship from Rotterdam, Holland and the ship was called Cuiderkruis. C, U, I, D, E, R, K, R, U, I, S. So on that ship we went, we were nine days on the ocean till we came to New Jersey. And we left Germany July 10. And I just turned 20 on July 1st.
Hannah Donaldson [00:30:41] Oh, wow.
Elsa Arsic [00:30:43] And on July 19, we landed in New Jersey, in New Jersey. And then we contacted the farmthe aunt on the farm. And, and they suggested and said they that we should come with the Greyhound bus, to Ashtabula. So the people in New Jersey, when we got off the ship and stuff, they they helped us to get on the bus.
Hannah Donaldson [00:31:24] So when you came to the United States, did you speak English as well as German?
Elsa Arsic [00:31:28] Nothing at all.
Hannah Donaldson [00:31:29] Nothing at all?
Elsa Arsic [00:31:30] No, no English at all. We were so it was really hard because we didn't talk any. Nobody talked English. No. So. Yeah, so we went on the bus on a Greyhound bus to Ashtabula, and that's where the bus stop stop there on some kind of drug store or something. And we came off with our suitcases and then the aunt and her husband the uncle, they were there with the car and they picked us up. And then we drove to the farm. That was, again, I don't know, maybe 30, 40 miles away. The town was called Colebrook. It's C, O, L, E, B, R, O, O, K. It's on route 322.
Hannah Donaldson [00:32:39] OK.
Elsa Arsic [00:32:39] Then you go to Pennsylvania on that route. That's where the town is and they lived off of a road on a farm.
Elsa Arsic [00:32:51] And so right away when they drive worse, we got sick in their car. We were not used to driving in the car.
Hannah Donaldson [00:33:00] Was that your first time in a car?
Elsa Arsic [00:33:02] They came with the car and picked us up. And we just used to we're used to driving on a train.
Hannah Donaldson [00:33:10] Right.
Elsa Arsic [00:33:10] Or the bicycle or walk in Germany. So there on the way, think we had to a couple of times stop and throw up. Throw up. We couldn't get used to the, the, drivng with the car driving. And so then we were on the farm there. So when we came to the farm. It was, again, another kind of a big disappointment because they were already planning on retiring with their farm. They had already gotten rid of the horses. They sold the horses to somebody in Pennsylvania. They only had seven or eight cows left and some chicken and nothing else. And they were ready. They were in their 60s. And it happened to be that at that time here, the government allowed the farmers to get into Social Security. So they were able to draw Social Security. So they didn't want to farm anymore and they would just give the land to the government and they would get paid for the government for their land and not not plowing or not seeding nothing doing nothing with the land. Just leave it lay and they would get paid for that. And that's how they planned it. And that's what they had planned. And we didn't really know all that.
Hannah Donaldson [00:34:51] Right.
Elsa Arsic [00:34:53] So we were my mom was very disappointed. She really wanted to be just like a farmer here. So then we were there since July and then we worked on the farm. We did just kind of clean up and we did the hay for the cows and this and that. And there was nothing else. And we, and I was very homesick. I probably cried day and night. I wanted to go back to Germany and they were upset kind of with us that they thought I should come and go by the farmers and ask like to be a maid by the farmer or something. And I was not interested in. And I just really wanted to go back to Germany. But we couldn't there was no way of getting there. We had no money or nothing. So then so we were kind of kind of stuck there, you know?
Hannah Donaldson [00:36:03] Right.
Elsa Arsic [00:36:05] So then on Labor Day, my sister, who was 12 at that time, she did go, the uncle did go with her to the schools there and registered her or whatever. So the school bus did come and she was about a week she went into the school there to Colebrook. The school bus, came by the farm and thing. So she was okay. And me and my mom. So then also that Labor Day weekend or a couple of days next weekend after or something, friends came from Cleveland to visit them, some kind of German lady who was who was married to an American soldier. And she used to come there to the farm and buy eggs and stuff. Yeah. So they came visiting on Labor Day. So my mom asked them if they could take her to Cleveland. So they, that lady and her husband they did take my mom to Cleveland and me and my sister, we stayed at the farm. And then here in Cleveland, she went to the like there was the agency was called. Like Lutheran from the Lutheran church that sponsored us, actually, the Lutheran Church is what sponsored us.
Hannah Donaldson [00:37:41] Okay.
Elsa Arsic [00:37:41] Because those on the farm, those aunts and uncles, they were not even citizens. They were they just lived here all the years without, they were both German, but never. I mean, she was here since 19 to Albany was her in 1906 or something. But they never, I guess it was a free country. They could live here without whatever.
Hannah Donaldson [00:38:06] Right.
Elsa Arsic [00:38:07] So so actually, the Lutheran church is what sponsored us. So when my mom came to Cleveland, the with the lady, they went right away to the Lutheran Church here in Cleveland and they tried to help us to get into Cleveland. OK, so my mom took on the job on the east side on Lake Shore Boulevard. There was a German couple who had a sewing machine store on East 55th. And they wanted like a housekeeper. They had a little, a little kid. And one little girl was six or seven in school. And then a little baby was a couple months or some. So then my mom, was, took that, the housekeeper job and me and my sister stayed on the farm. And then while we were on the farm, they were really mad at us, the uncle, and think that we wanted to leave. They talked. What they had planned is I should go to some farm and work. My mom should stay with them and help them. And my sister could go to school with the school bus. And since this didn't work out how we wanted to get away. So they were really mad at us.
Hannah Donaldson [00:39:45] Oh, wow.
Elsa Arsic [00:39:46] And then so we were the whole week while my mom was in Cleveland, they were kinda kind of nasty with us. I remember we went like tomato picking and peaches picking through the farm someplace. And then she would can everything. And, and my sister was always still kind of how they still have seven or eight cows. She was always supposed to pump the water. So there was always water in this big basin for the cows. So while we were there that week, I was with the aunt in a pantry, kind of, pealing the tomatoes and the peaches and stuff. And then my sister came screaming in that he wanted to hurt her. The uncle. So I went out and what's wrong thing. So he was that the sickle, like cutting the grass, you know, cutting the clover for the cows to feed. And he was going with the sickle after her, after my sister and wanted to hurt her.
Hannah Donaldson [00:41:04] Oh my goodness.
Elsa Arsic [00:41:05] And then so I got very upset and I screamed at him and he lied he said that she would jump into him, that he didn't wanted to hurt, but she it was her fault, you know. So and the aunt, was sitting in the damn lawn, in the pantry, and never came out how we were arguing. I was screaming at him and think and she came never out to look what's going on. She was just like stupid, like under his thumb. She had nothing to say. So and I probably never was so mad in my whole life I think. So I cursed them up and down, both, to burn in hell forever. With the stupid farm and whatever they had. And we ran away and I closed my suitcase and took the keys and we walked to the town through the fields. We walked to the town where the school was because we were outside on a farm, you know, so we went. While my sister was in school, there was a teacher that used to be in the service in Germany, so he knew couple words a German. So he helped my sister a little bit with homework and stuff, you know, but there was also another German lady in the town in this direct in Colebrook next to the school. So the teacher used to go with my sister to this German lady, too, that she should explain what the homework that she had to do. So my sister knew this lady a little bit. Right. And, and she was talking about at home, I mean, to the aunt and uncle, and they got very mad. Somehow they had an argument or hate for each other with this certain person. And her name was Reiner. That's all I know Frau Reiner. OK. And so we ran away to this Reiner lady. And we came there, we went through the fields to that we made it. So we went through the fields. So we went by this Reiner lady and we told them. How we had this big argument and we can't go there anymore and we ask if we could sleep there. And they said, she said, that she knows that those people are funny. They never had kids. They don't know how to handle kids and nothing. But she does not want to get involved.
Hannah Donaldson [00:44:05] Oh, my goodness.
Elsa Arsic [00:44:06] And we cannot stay there and while we were still crying and talking who pulls up the driveway the aunt and the uncle in the car. And they knew exactly how long it took for us to walk there. So they came and they were, how can you walk away from us? It's Friday night. Somebody could rape you and catch you and da, da, da. And they made it like a whole different story.
Hannah Donaldson [00:44:43] Wow.
Elsa Arsic [00:44:45] And we have to go back with them, on the farm, because that Reiner lady didn't want to get involved with them. So we went back with them. And I just kind of really hated her more than him because she was the aunt. And I thought and she never made moo. She never had anything to say. Like she was just like a dumb ass, you know what I mean?
Hannah Donaldson [00:45:17] Right.
Elsa Arsic [00:45:19] So anyway, so we went back to the farm. We went back up in our room and stayed we were, sleeping up. They were down and we was sleeping up. And then the next day, really Saturday, my mom came with this new lady where she was going to be a housekeeper. She came with the car and they picked us up. Well, we just really had a suitcase. I mean, maybe two, two, three suitcase. Picked us up. And then we went to the East Side there on Lakeshore Boulevard. I think it was a 147 or something, Lakeshore Boulevard off of lakeshore. And we could live upstairs they had a apartment up, we could live. And my mom was down the housekeeper, and then my sister could go to the Lutheran school with the bus. She had to go I think there was a Lutheran school, on 152nd or something, with the bus a little bit. And I had to look for work. So I looked for work and then I found a job. It was called Cleveland Overall Company and it was on Paine and East 24th Street.
Hannah Donaldson [00:46:38] And what year was this?
Elsa Arsic [00:46:40] Paine and East 24th. And there was a big building. And what we did, it was a sewing. On a machine, sewing. And they did those big jumpsuits like overalls, you know, that the gas station people they, it's all one piece.
Hannah Donaldson [00:47:00] Yeah.
[00:47:01] Those kind of suits we were sewing. And then, so I was there like seven weeks sewing. My mom was the housekeeper. My sister went to school there. And then how we were at that Lutheran office, Lutheran church office that was on Lorain someplace was the office at that time. And, so they were saying that there is a factory in Strongsville, that they just built new, new factory and that they were hiring people and the manager was German and they hired German. It was called Hertner Electric H, E, R, T, N, E, R electric on Strongsville, it goes on Westwood Drive. So, to Strongsville, you needed a car. The busses that didn't go with in time to be at work and all that, you know, so then we went again to this Lutheran church office and the pastor wrote a nice letter to this manager of this thing and was his name was Fred Helwig. H, E, L, W, I, G Fred Helwing. And he wrote a nice letter. Here is a widow with two kids and please give them work. They need to help, blah, blah, blah. So with this letter, we went, we went to and, and actually Gilda is the lady that helped us from the farm Gilda and Johnny. So, Gilda and Johnny, they took us again to to Hertner Electric and we talked with the guy there and gave him the letter and all, and he hired me and my mom right away.
Hannah Donaldson [00:49:10] Wow. And what year was this?
Elsa Arsic [00:49:12] That was in October of 1956. So then we were already there with the farm done and we were already on the east side a couple of weeks there on Lakeshore Boulevard. And then we moved from the east side from Lakeshore, we moved to the west of Clark and 48. And we lived there, Clark 48. And we could find we could have a ride that Fred, that from Hertner Electric, the boss there. He connected us with people who were driving from Lorain Avenue so we could we had to walk, like from Clark, we used to walk 54th street over to Lorain and we could catch a ride there to go to Strongsville. And there we made kind of good money and was mostly was lot of Germans. That wasn't a factory they used to be in in Bedford already. And they had just built this new factory in Strongsville out. And so there was still a couple of old workers from Bedford there, but mostly was all German immigrants. They just came off the boat and just came there. And that Fred was really good to all of us. And they took me right away because I was already for, with the electric in, in Germany with Siemens and they took my mom, too. And so it was I mean, it was good right away. And we made good money. In just like for instance, I sold the coats, the overalls. I used to get seventy five cents. That was that time the thing. And I worked there for a couple of weeks. I don't know how long, well probably from Labor Day till October, maybe again seven weeks. I don't know. And Gilda the one who helped us to the farm. She used to say go in the office Eisenhower just made the law, you you're supposed to get a dollar an hour. He made, he increased like the minimum wage. Yeah. Go when you can't talk. Right. Go. So anyway, I remember my whole check used to be twenty four dollars. I worked all week plus Saturday, half a day. By the Cleveland Overall Company used to be twenty four dollar.
Hannah Donaldson [00:52:15] That's very different then now.
Elsa Arsic [00:52:19] Yeah. And then once we started by Hertner Electric we started out already with a dollar forty or something like that.
Hannah Donaldson [00:52:27] Wow.
Elsa Arsic [00:52:28] And there, I used to do I winded motors. Like we, there was a core, a metal core and they had, they had coils of fine wire. They will find like hair fine. And I have to build, hat was my job, to build in the, the coils, the wire wrap it in a paper into the slots in this core. So I was Stator winder. S, T. S, T, A, T, O, R, W, I, N, D, E, R, that was my job.
Hannah Donaldson [00:53:09] Wow. And how long did you do that for?
Elsa Arsic [00:53:12] Pardon me?
Hannah Donaldson [00:53:12] How long did you do that for?
Elsa Arsic [00:53:14] I did that. We did that for about, I did that for five years. Till, OK. And then later even I got a little more paid. The longer you are there, you know, and there was really no that was a good that was really nice. And my mom was also she had to kind of wire it, put the wire on, like connect the wires on the motor and stuff. And later Kennedy started when Kennedy became president and he started with the space program.
Hannah Donaldson [00:53:51] Yeah.
Elsa Arsic [00:53:52] And then our motors and what we were doing that had to do with the space program.
Hannah Donaldson [00:53:58] Wow.
Elsa Arsic [00:53:59] So we were really kind of and then they were pushing us, the office and stuff all to become American citizens because we had to be American citizens to work for the government like that, you know.
Hannah Donaldson [00:54:13] Right.
Elsa Arsic [00:54:13] And we were not five years there. We were only a year or two or three or I don't know when. When did Kennedy come in? 60. I don't know. I don't know then when Kennedy started. But anyway. So we were there and that was good, and then they came and they moved to Alabama. That factory.
Hannah Donaldson [00:54:42] Oh my gosh.
Elsa Arsic [00:54:42] Another one bought them out, then they were called Kearfott. They bought Hertner out. Kearfott, it was called I mean, they had another factory, I think, in New Jersey or someplace up by New York someplace, and they came just Kearfott and bought Hertner out. And, and then moved to Alabama. And we were all supposed to we could move all to Alabama with them, but nobody wanted to go to Alabama we were just barely settled here, you know.
Hannah Donaldson [00:55:25] Right.
Elsa Arsic [00:55:25] So, you know, so then then it was called Kearfott. K, E, A, R, F, O, T, T. And they still had a second factory it was on Cleveland, 127 Street was another that same factory.
Phone [00:55:48] *Ringing*.
Elsa Arsic [00:55:48] Let it run. The same facotry but they had big motors, like for washing machines and for other you know, we had the small ones for the space and stuff. So anyway. Well, that was good. So then in in in 1960, in summer, June 1960, I met my husband, I met Dad. I mean, I met Bozin Arsic. He was also kind of a prisoner of war in Germany for 10 years. He was from 1940 till 1950 in Germany.
Hannah Donaldson [00:56:36] Wow.
Elsa Arsic [00:56:36] As a prisoner of war because then Hitler went to Yugoslavia, also bombarding them. He was caught and brought to Germany. He was a 13 year old kid and was brought to Germany and first he had to work in a coal mine. And then he was put by a farmer to work. And so he also knew German. And so then so that was I met him, like I said, June 1960.
Hannah Donaldson [00:57:13] How did you meet?
Elsa Arsic [00:57:14] How we meet?
Hannah Donaldson [00:57:15] Yeah.
Elsa Arsic [00:57:17] There was a restaurant on well, on Broadview. It was used to call Heidelberck. Used to be a dance hall.
Hannah Donaldson [00:57:27] Oh, wow.
Elsa Arsic [00:57:28] Yeah, that's where we met.
Hannah Donaldson [00:57:31] Was he agood dancer?
Elsa Arsic [00:57:32] Oh, yeah. He was better than I was. And he was very I always used to be like a very shy person and like quiet. I also always kind of I remember in Germany I had a problem how I have a problem with my eyes. I used to have glasses in Germany already when I was four years old. And I have like a lazy eye. And when I was in Germany in school, the boys made fun of me all the time to.
Hannah Donaldson [00:58:08] No.
Elsa Arsic [00:58:08] In Germany, it was unusual for kids to have glasses. It's not like here how everybody has glasses already and they make nothing of it. But there they I mean, there it was everybody had healthy eyes or whatever. I was the only one with the problem and I had to wear glasses and they did not do nothing else. How now they have the patch, with the lazy eye covering and all that. That was not my mom used to go to the eye doctor with me all the time, but there was nothing they could do. My mom always talked about surgery and da, da, da. The eye is weak. There's nothing they can do and that's how it was. So I always needed glasses and the boys made fun of me. So I was kind of, I think, let's say, maybe not attractive to the boys. Or something. I don't know. But I was always shy and kind of quiet more to myself and dad (Bozin), my husband, he was very outgoing and proud and not not holding back, with nothing and say. And I also was kind of I listen to my mom a lot or maybe too much because I my dad, when he was in war, I wrote with him all the time when I was a kid in war. And when as soon as I started school and my dad always told me in the letters I should listen to my mom, how I have, especially after I had the little sister. And I should help my mom till he comes back, till he comes back and he never came back. So this was kind of in me, I think, all growing up that I have to help my mom and I have to listen and listen. And I did always listen to my mom. And she was really very she never wanted to get me married. She didn't want me to get married at all. She wanted me just to work and help her work and help. She was very kind of she wanted to establish and a good saver and make something, you know, and she could care less about if I love somebody or not. You know what I mean? And more. So when I met dad, he he kind of he was not scared of my mom, how I was. He was very outgoing and he kind of and I felt I was attracted to that, I think.
Hannah Donaldson [01:00:49] Yeah.
Elsa Arsic [01:00:50] And I felt safe with him or something. And he did. And he was really very fair to my mom, my husband. But he was. He respected her, how she was a widow raising us by herself and all, and on, and he kind of respected her very much he he really he was really fair to my sister and to my mom. We bought this house here Christmas. In December 1960, we bought the house and the next month we married, we bought the house first and then we married the next month.
Hannah Donaldson [01:01:32] Wow.
Elsa Arsic [01:01:33] And me and my mom and my sister, we moved in here and dad, my husband, moved in after we married. A month later. So and so, ever since I'm here in this house.
Hannah Donaldson [01:01:50] Wow. That's.
Elsa Arsic [01:01:51] Yeah.
Hannah Donaldson [01:01:52] Unbelievable.
Elsa Arsic [01:01:54] And so then I started having the kids.
Hannah Donaldson [01:01:58] When was your eldest born?
Elsa Arsic [01:02:00] George my eldist. George is my oldest. He was born in 62, February 62. And he was born on George Washington's birthday. And we were before we were discussing the names and we did not agree to any names. And when he was born, it was George Washington's birthday. It's like, God help me. I bet we had a name that we agreed on all, you know. So we named him George. And then the second name is the Robert, like my dad.
Hannah Donaldson [01:02:42] Wow.
Elsa Arsic [01:02:43] So that was George. And a year later, in 63. April, my daughter was born Gabriel. Yeah. And then for a while it was good. The kids started school already and when they started school then in 19, they were already in school, and then 1970, my youngest son, Rick, Sharon, her dad was born. (Gesturing toward her grandaughter Ayana Arsic) In 1970. And we were always in this house and my husband was a good worker. He worked for the steel mill. We always had everything. He was he was not stingy. He kind of let us have kind of what we needed with the kids and all. And we have it. We have a good life. Yeah.
Hannah Donaldson [01:03:31] Did you teach your children German?
Elsa Arsic [01:03:34] No.
Hannah Donaldson [01:03:34] Not at all?
Elsa Arsic [01:03:36] Not much German. We did, we did German to begin with. A little bit. My husband was a Serbian and he wanted me to learn Serbian. And I said, no, I'm not living in Serbia, I'm living here. And then he was really better in English than I was. And then he was after me to learn better English. And he didn't know German. He wanted English. And that's what we did.
Hannah Donaldson [01:04:09] Wow.
Elsa Arsic [01:04:10] No, not much German. I just kept my religion. I kept Lutheran.
Hannah Donaldson [01:04:15] Was your husband also Lutheran?
Elsa Arsic [01:04:17] No.
Hannah Donaldson [01:04:18] No?
Elsa Arsic [01:04:18] He was Serbian Orthodox.
Hannah Donaldson [01:04:20] OK.
Elsa Arsic [01:04:22] But they only talk Serbian in their church. And I only went one time with him to a church. He wanted me to turn and and I couldn't understand one word. And they were doing all this and that. And I couldn't. And I told him, I'm not doing I can't do this. I don't understand and I'm not doing this. And I think he was a little upset with me because of that. But he got over it or something. Whatever. I mean, he was buried also Lutheran later. He always was a member with the Serbian church. Yes. He kept his membership on Wallings Road with the Serbian church. And I always stayed with Emmanuel Lutheran Church in Cleveland. They still preach German today. And I always went to my church. And later on he came with me to my church, too. So he understood German, but he well anyway Serbian was important for him.
Hannah Donaldson [01:05:30] Right. Wow. Well, thank you so much.
Elsa Arsic [01:05:36] So is it, about an hour? I don't know.
Hannah Donaldson [01:05:38] Yeah. Just about. It's an hour and five minutes right now. Is there anything else you'd like to add? Say? Is there anything, I guess currently maybe in the political climate or anything like that you'd be interested in talking about?
Elsa Arsic [01:05:52] About what?
Hannah Donaldson [01:05:54] Is there anything, ah, you know currently that you'd like to speak on, like either in the political climate or just in general, anything left that you'd like to talk about?
Elsa Arsic [01:06:02] No, not really. I have. Now I'm old. I'm eighty five and I have health problems and I kind of I'm happy I'm still in my home here by myself, but I don't know what's coming my way. I mean, I need that cataract surgery now. I'm a little bit upset with that, but. I hope I can stay healthy and keep on doing here, you know.
Hannah Donaldson [01:06:30] Well, thank you so much for this.
Elsa Arsic [01:06:33] You're welcome.
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