The telephone rang when I opened the door. I had just returned home from the hospital after a long operation: "They are calling me again." With a deep sigh I reached for the receiver. A voice with a characteristic rolling r asked in Polish, "It is you, Sally?" "Yes, Tola." Her name slipped off my tongue. "What are you doing in New York?"

My heart was pounding. My mouth was dry. On the other end of the telephone my past was eyeing me.

Tola was my high school classmate in Lodz ghetto. She was a star student, a bookworm, a 14-year-old girl who never lost hope. Our teachers tried very hard to enrich our lives, but they were losing their physical as well as mental strength. In 1941 the school was closed, the students went to slave work, and our teachers died later of starvation.

Tola lived in the ghetto by my house, and we started to study French at night to keep our minds busy. But hunger usually overcame us. Our meals consisted of watery soup, a small portion of bread, and frozen potatoes. We were growing teenagers, and we tried several methods to kill the gnawing feeling of hunger with no results. We started poetry reading, but it evoked intense futility. The beautiful words that confronted the cruel reality were of little support to us. "Music," decided Tola one day, "may cure hunger. We think all day of food; therefore, hunger is a cerebral feeling. The pleasure of listening to music is a cerebral function too and may displace hunger."

My enthusiasm grew. I had heard of sublimation of feelings before. Our great poet Mickiewicz wrote of it. Let's then saturate our brains with music, and hunger shall disappear.

We sneaked into the old movie house, now transformed into Symphony Hall. We sat there for two hours listening to music and dreaming of a hot, thick soup, of a piece of bread covered with lard, of an egg and milk, which we had not tasted or seen for the past two years.

Hunger was our constant companion. There were no more French lessons for brains conquered by hunger.

We stopped menstruating, and my friend Stella wondered if we did not present a third sex—neither female nor male, a curiosum created by the Third Reich.

In 1944 Lodz ghetto was liquidated and its inhabitants sent to Auschwitz. Tola survived Auschwitz and Stutthoff. I saw her again in 1945. Her head was shaved and a tattooed number was visible on her forearm. We both never grew over five feet high, the height we had at the age of 14. We started school again—it was a race with time since we had lost so many years. Later we entered medical school. Tola left Poland and graduated from medical school in Jerusalem.

Our reunion in New York was the reunion of classmates, the class of 1941, a reunion en deux, to use the "remnants" of our excursion into French a long time ago.

Tola is a pediatrician with an MBA degree in public health and she is a frequent lecturer at American universities. I am a director of an anesthesia department.

"Look, Sally," says Tola, "we have so many scars, we were deeply wounded during our formative years. We have fears, we have complexes. In some respects we are weaker; in many other ways we are stronger. We are more than mere survivors, and we don't owe anything to psychoanalysts, social workers, or foster parents."

We are sitting, talking, and eating an excellent meal before going to the New York Philharmonic.

The lesson of 1941 was not forgotten. Lucullus before Mozart.

Salomea Kape, MD
Brooklyn, NY