Holocaust survivor, mother, grandmother, homemaker, retirement home worker. Born March 27, 1924, in Podvolochisk, Poland; died Sept. 12, 2013, in Toronto of cancer, aged 89.
Born in a remote Polish town separated from Russia by a river, Rose Schneiderman was one of two children of Elsig and Malka Rosen. She recalled a happy home, her father travelling from town to town peddling household goods.
With Hitler breaking his pact with Stalin and rolling into eastern Poland, all the young single people of the town slipped across the river into Russia. Rose was only 17, and her parents would not let her leave on her own. Luckily, a family friend agreed to take Rose along with him. They did not last together as a group, however, Rose taking up work on a locomotive that moved supplies throughout Russia during the war.
With the Nazis defeated, Rose returned to Podvolochisk, where she met Joshua Schneiderman. They married in 1946 and started their lives as displaced persons in Austria, then moved to Israel in 1951, where their daughter, Marilyn, was born. The Middle East being too hot for northern Europeans, they sought to immigrate to Canada or the United States. Because the visa to Canada arrived the day before the U.S. one, they chose to settle in Montreal, where they had a son, David.
Life was not easy for Rose early on – a housewife with two small children, she did not speak either English or French (though she could converse in six other European languages). She energetically took up the challenge of learning English by reading magazines and, eventually, a book a day. With her children attending English-language schools, she learned alongside them.
Rose almost lost her life in the early 1960s when she was struck by a vehicle while walking on the sidewalk. Although she mostly recovered, she bore scars for the rest of her life. With the proceeds from her personal injury settlement, she and Joshua were able to purchase their first and only home, a duplex in the Montreal suburb of Côte Saint-Luc.
In the 1970s, with her children grown, Rose started working at a retirement home in Montreal. She took some pride in being able to contribute to the household. She had a loving relationship with Joshua, though after he suffered a stroke in 1996, taking care of him was a hardship. She dutifully attended to him every single day, first at home and then in hospital, right up to his death in 2003. What helped sustain her through this period, and through the difficult experience of losing Marilyn to cancer in 1994, was Marilyn’s daughter, Emily.
It took some convincing to finally get her to move to Toronto in 2011 to be closer to David. She was very happy for the first year or so, spending time with her two other grandchildren, Kiran and Anika. But early this year, Rose started to show signs of severe decline. She knew something was wrong – that she was not long for this world – and eventually was diagnosed with cancer. Medical and support staff thought she was delightful – ever pleasant, smiling and thanking them for their help. They did not need to be told – even though they were – that she was a delightful, kind and courageous person, and a wonderful mother.
David Schneiderman is Rose’s son.