Recorded by his granddaughter Beth Gamulka in 1982.Reprinted with the permission of Isaac's daughter, Alla Gamulka.
I, Isaac Tulchinsky, am one of 13 children born in the Tulchinsky family in Tiraspol. My family has lived in Tiraspol for 250 years. I went to school there, first cheder between the ages of 4 and 10, then high school for four years. I had to finish high school in Bendery, a city located 16 kilometers from Tiraspol, because of the quota - only 10% Jews could go to high school in Tiraspol. My father called the school in Bendery that I went to "Goishe school". He was sure that I would be processed there, and I would no longer be a Jew after graduating from this school. But the revolution began, and the Jews could no longer freely go to school or a higher educational institution. I went to university, but I went there only for one day, and only because they wanted to make a communist out of me, and I was afraid.
My parents' names were Yaakov Joseph and Hannah, nee Schenker. My grandfather's name was Hanoch. He died when I was 2 months old and my brother Harry (Hanokh) was named after his grandfather. My parents were in a relatively good financial position. My father worked in the city municipality and everyone knew him.
We were 7 brothers and 6 sisters. All 7 brothers were active members of the Zionist movement. My oldest brother, Fischel, was in Mizrachi, and another older brother, Label Arieh, was active in the liberal Zionist movement. The rest of the brothers were named Daniel, Ber Shloyme, Hannoch (Harry) and Berl. My brother, Berl, is 5 years younger than me. My mother was 45 years old and was very upset when Berl was born. She thought she was too old to have a small child and therefore she often cried. We were afraid to tell Berl about it. He was very spoiled and did not want to study. Now he is a big "Maher" in his synagogue. He goes there every Saturday and he knows what to do there.
Harry graduated from yeshiva and I prepared him for high school. He graduated from high school, but just at that time the revolution began, and everyone was not up to school. Politics was all we had on our minds.
My sisters had a rabbi in the family. They also learned a little Russian. My older brother was very religious. He was a friend of Bialik. He had a good sense of humour. When my father died in 1920, we sat at shiva. It was very hard to stay serious because every word my brother said made me laugh. A month later, the communists came. If my father had not died, he would have been killed, since he was a capitalist. He owned 10 houses in a small town.
The Mizrahi Organization was founded in Tiraspol in 1902 by my brother Fishel, Maimon Fishman and Wertheim. Years later, Fishman became Israel's first Minister of Religious Affairs in 1948. Ben Gurion loved him like a brother. When the IDF was founded, Fishman said the food in the army should be kosher, and Ben Gurion agreed.
I joined the Workers' Zionist movement when I was only 16. My friend David Wertheim was a famous figure in the Zionist movement. He was a member of the Jewish Agency. On December 31, 1916, he met me on the street and invited me to a meeting. He was older than me and he wanted to attract young people. It happened 66 years ago and since then I have been a member of the labor Zionist movement.
I lived in Russia, moved to Romania, then to Israel, and eventually ended up in Canada. Despite changing places, I have always remained loyal to the Zionist movement and have always been an active member of it. I met some of my first acquaintances in the Zionist organization. His name was Nathanson, but he changed it to Nathan (Netanyahu?). He became a university professor. Another member of this group became a professor in England.
Our house was religious, but I was not religious. I left school in 1919 and fled to Romania in 1920. It was very dangerous, because I was a member of a Zionist organization, and there was enough anti-Semitism around.
I married Fana for the first time in 1920. From this marriage, a daughter, Rita, was born. She lived with her husband in Israel. In 1931 I divorced. I have two grandchildren and great-grandchildren in Israel. I fled to Romania because I knew that the communists would arrest me. I found a man who helped me cross the river at night, it was the only way to escape. I made many friends in Bucharest. I was well known in the textile industry as a manager in a textile factory. It was great work. But the depression closed the factory in 1928 and I started my own business. The business brought good income. I married a second time in 1933. His wife's name was Basya (Brakha) Berkovich. My daughter Alexandra (Ala) was born in 1939. In 1941, war broke out with Germany. Anti-Semitism on the part of Romanians and Germans was at its peak, and I decided to flee Romania in 1942 because of the pogroms. In Iasi, the second largest city in Romania, there was a pogrom. I signed up for Struma, but 3 weeks before sailing, I decided to cancel my tickets and find another way. I knew that 800 people signed up for a ship that could only take 200 people, it seemed dangerous to me.
Struma was destroyed by a submarine in Turkish waters. We would have been killed if we had hit the ship. Only one boy survived from all the passengers on the ship. He was the son of Frida's cousin, David Stolyar. He is currently the richest man in America. I bought the ship Mircea, 17.5 meters long and 3.5 meters wide. I took more passengers on board, and we set sail on April 10, 1942, from a small port in Bessarabia called Tulcha. We were 40 people, and we were on the road for 40 days and nights until we arrived in Haifa. The English found us because we were illegals. They put us in the Atilite camp. We spent 100 days there before we were released. At the time of this trip, my daughter Alya was only two years old. My wife and my mother-in-law sailed with me.
My daughter Ala saved our lives. It was a very important event in my life. We were in the Mediterranean, and we sailed through some of the Greek islands occupied by the Italians. Our ship looked like a Russian submarine. We were 500 meters from the Italians, when they saw us, they thought it was a Russian ship and wanted to destroy us. I took my 2-year-old daughter in my arms and started waving a white sheet to show them that we are not military people, but just ordinary people. The Turks have fired at us before. The Italians took all 40 people on the ship and brought us to the school building. There were no beds. Two officers came to us. One of them, a doctor, brought milk for my daughter. Then he also brought jam and half of the chocolate. They didn't have much food either. My wife spoke to him in French. He started crying and she asked him why he was crying. He was a wonderful person. He told us that Mussolini sent him there a year and a half ago. He left his children behind and his youngest child looked a lot like our daughter. That's how our daughter saved us.
Life in Israel was difficult because of the Arabs and our own terrorists. Yigal Alon and the Palmach (part of the Israel Defense Forces) had the best soldiers. They won the war. During the 1948 war, I was standing in the street near Jaffa when the Palmach soldiers arrived. They were booed by the followers of Menachem Begin. I couldn't take it and I left. Begin brought the Altalena, a ship full of weapons from Europe. He did not want to surrender the ship, and Ben-Gurion ordered it to be destroyed.
During the war, I could not join the army, but I was a civilian volunteer. Every night I had to patrol the streets. All men were required to do so. I knew many people who rose to high positions after 1948.
Moshe Sharett once spoke in Tokyo, where there was a small Jewish community. He told them that even the sole survivor of Struma's ship had left Israel. One of those who listened to the speech stood up and said that he was the only survivor of Struma's passenger. David Stolyar then lived in Tokyo. I spoke with Moshe Sharett about this. Atlit was inhabited by a Pole who had once worked at the consulate in Bucharest. He had a close relationship with a woman and decided to run away on Struma. He made himself a false visa to Palestine. Since the Poles were allowed to enter Turkey, he got off the ship in Turkey. Turkish authorities checked his documents and determined that they were fake. He was exiled to Palestine and was with us in the camp of Atlit. So when I heard Sharett's story, I thought it was about this man. I didn't know that David Joiner was in Tokyo.
I knew Golda Meir very well. In 1976 I was in New York with Baba Frida. This was the last time Golda Meir was in America. She was invited by Nixon. In her speech, she said that the best immigrants to Israel were the Romanians who arrived after 1958, as there were many professionals among them.
I first met Golda Meir in 1945 or 1946 at small meetings of the working committee. I spoke to her in Russian. In 1948, Golda Meir was the minister of labor in the government. David Wertheim's brother was her secretary. When David died, I sat shiva. David's brother didn't know me, but I told him my name and that I was Fischel's brother. He was very happy to meet me.
I also knew Beba Idelson. She was one of the founders of the Women Pioneers organization. She also spoke beautiful Russian. One day when I came to Israel, I didn't book a hotel room, and I had to hope for a vacancy every day. At this time, I met Beba Idelson at a meeting of the working committee, and I told her that I was staying at a hotel. The next morning at 7:00 pm, her secretary came by car to pick me up to show me the work of the pioneer women. I spent two hours visiting various places. Beba Idelson remembered what I told her, and therefore sent her secretary for me. She is no longer alive, this story took place in the seventies. That's all.