Mother, grandmother, great-grandmother, homemaker. Born June 25, 1920, in Copenhagen, died Nov. 25, 2012, in Toronto of pancreatic cancer, aged 92.
Martha Saldov boasted that in the 1950s in Toronto, she used to spend just $25 a week to feed, clothe and otherwise care for her husband Max and their three sons, Allan, John and Morris.
She loved to bake and to knit. She would make headbands, potholders and scarves for family members, and later also for cancer survivors.
Martha was a survivor herself – of the Holocaust, having escaped from Denmark to Sweden in 1943 with Max and her firstborn, Allan.
She was born and raised in a Jewish family in Copenhagen. Life was good there. Her father was a shoemaker, and Martha and her elder sister Becky helped their mother sell the boots, shoes and clogs he made and repaired. With their two brothers, they shared an apartment – though it was not on top of the store. Martha married when she was 20, and soon after gave birth to Allan. During the Second World War, the Danish Social Justice Minister, who was a family friend, advised Martha’s family to flee to Sweden. He had heard that all Jews in Denmark would be victimized by the Nazi regime. He helped arrange their departure, and the family quickly left by fishing boat from Snikkerstein, just north of Copenhagen, in October, 1943, carrying only small hand luggage, clothes and diapers for the baby.
The Swedish government provided Danish refugees with accommodation in a hotel and $10 a week each. The women residents did the cleaning and the men worked in the kitchen. Martha, Max and Allan stayed at the hotel for three months before Martha’s parents moved to an apartment in the south of Sweden, and Martha’s family joined them. Their second son, John, was born there.
The family returned to Copenhagen in 1945, where they found their apartment undamaged and totally intact, with not even a needle missing.
Martha had left a young, non-Jewish couple living in it as caretakers, and they had done a wonderful job. She remembered the vase of roses her friend had picked to welcome them home.
Martha kept in touch with the couple for 50 years, though sadly had not heard from them in recent years.
Back in Copenhagen, they had their third son, Morris, a year later. Max found a job ironing clothes.
However, his mother felt that it was only a matter of time before there was another war and insisted that the family should move to the safety of Canada.
Martha did not really want to, but her own mother pointed out that perhaps it would provide a better future for their children. The family arrived in Canada in 1948.
Max took a job pressing clothes in Toronto, and later delivered bottled milk and baked goods before getting his own taxi and licence.
In Toronto, Martha gave birth to Evelyn – finally, a daughter – who became a star advocate, along with Martha’s grandchildren, in promoting Martha’s health and prolonging her life.
In Danish when a person passes on, we have a saying: Tak for Alt (Thanks for everything). That was Martha’s mood of preparedness for what was to come when she knew she didn’t have long to live.
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