Dr. Giselle (Gita) Cycowicz, a survivor of the Shoah, a great-grandmother and a psychologist, still practices her profession and volunteers in Holocaust education at the age of 87.
A dynamic mother, grandmother and great-grandmother, Dr. Giselle (Gita) Cycowicz proves that age is but a number.
A psychologist and survivor of the Shoah, Dr. Giselle (Gita) Cycowicz, 87, continues to see patients and to volunteer in educating the next generation about the Holocaust.
Cycowicz was born in 1927 in Khust; the city now belongs to the Ukraine, but at the time it was a part of Czechoslovakia until invaded by Hungary in 1939. The Nazis occupied Hungary in 1944.
The Jewish community was suffering profound discrimination and antisemitism “under the socalled Jewish laws,” Cycowicz explained.
She was the youngest of three daughters in the Friedman family.
Within three months of the Nazi incursion, the family was deported to the infamous Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp, where her father perished.
“It was a miracle” that her mother – then a middle-aged woman with a heart condition – survived, Cycowicz said. With the help of a relative, they eventually made their way to New York.
Nevertheless, the United States – although a haven that they greatly appreciated – was not to be their permanent address.
Cycowicz, an intellectual, managed to keep up on her reading despite the lack of formal schooling and horrendous living conditions during her teenage years. In America, after working at various jobs as a house cleaner and in factories and, at the same time, learning English, she took a high school equivalency exam and passed with the highest score among immigrants.
Cycowicz: ‘I knew I wanted to make Israel my home one day’
Her unusual talents were noticeable even in Auschwitz, where she had learned draftsmanship. In New York, once she mastered the new language, Cycowicz attained a position as a mechanical designer; after acquiring work experience, she went to Israel for a year and gained employment at Israel’s national electric company.
“It was the best year of my life,” she enthused. “I returned home to be with my family, but I knew I wanted to make Israel my home one day.”
In 1957, in New York, she married Izchak Cycowicz, a prominent Israeli engineer who had headed the team that designed the Uzi submachine gun.
When he passed away in 1991, all three of their children – two girls and a boy – had already moved to the Holy Land. Having been raised in a Zionist home and given the opportunity to study there for a year after high school, each of them had decided to make aliyah (immigration to the State of Israel).
While raising her family, Cycowicz also managed to gain a higher education and to establish a successful career.
“I was so starved for learning,” she told United with Israel. “When I started college officially, my oldest daughter was 11 and my baby was 3.”
She studied at Brooklyn College and attained a degree in Psychology as well as a prize as the best immigrant student. Next was a doctorate from the CUNY Graduate Center.
A vivacious, friendly personality, Cycowitz always seems delighted to meet new people and to pursue diverse interests, despite her busy schedule. She still sees clients at Amcha – an organization that serves as a support system for Holocaust survivors – and in private practice.
Cycowicz volunteers at Yad Vashem World Center for Holocaust Research. She also speaks on Holocaust education at schools and has participated in dozens of trips to Poland with youth groups from all over the world.
Author: Atara Beck, Staff Writer, United with Israel
Date: Mar. 23, 2014