Cluwa Krystal (1893-1981)

Cluwa Krystal
Cluwa Krystal

The eldest of seven surviving children, Cluwa Krystal was born into an orthodox family in Warsaw on 29 January 1893.  She married Mordkhe Fajgman and had a son Dawid, but they divorced in the 1920s and Cluwa never remarried.  Cluwa completed her teacher training as a kindergarten teacher.  Until the outbreak of war she worked in her vocation and as director in a non-religious Yiddish kindergarten in Warsaw, one of the CYSHO schools.

The Central Yiddish School Organisation, (CYSHO) was established in 1921 in Warsaw to provide a network of Yiddish secular schools including kindergartens, elementary schools, high schools and teachers’ seminaries. They emphasized socialist ideals, secularism and Yiddish.  In 1929 a total of 24,000 students were enrolled in CYSHO schools.  In addition to her role in these schools, Cluwa was involved with many school camps (colonias) and at the Medem Sanatorium.  She was a member of the Bund.

When war broke out she fled from Warsaw and followed her son to Bialystok.  In 1940-41 they made their escape to Lithuania and with the assistance of Sugihara visas, made the perilous journey across Russia to Japan.  Cluwa and her son were among over 6000 Jewish refugees who were issued transit visas by the Japanese diplomat, Chiune Sugihara, while he served as Vice Consul for the Japanese Empire in Lithuania.  In June-July of 1941 they were deported from Japan to the Shanghai ghetto where they remained until the end of the war.  In January 1947 Cluwa and her son Dawid arrived in Melbourne.

Cluwa joined Joseph Giligich at the I.L. Peretz School in Carlton as a kindergarten and Sunday school Yiddish teacher. In 1950 she became the first director of the newly opened I.L. Peretz Kindergarten.  She worked in the Sunday school and Yiddish kindergarten for 20 years.  In addition to teaching at the I.L. Peretz School, she was deeply involved with the Melbourne Bund and the Kadimah and served on many of their committees.  Throughout her life she maintained contact with numerous Yiddish authors, playwrights and pedagogues.

Cluwa lived her life in Yiddish.  Throughout her lifetime her many students around the world kept in touch with their ’Lererin Cluwa’ (teacher Cluwa).

She passed away in Melbourne on 25 March 1981.

Source:  Questionnaire completed by Mark Fajgman (grandson).