The Original Ms. Rose’s Fine Food & Cocktails today announced that Rose “Roza” Mibab Goldberg, the namesake and inspiration for the West Ashley restaurant, passed away on March 1st.
The following is a statement from the restaurant:
We are extremely saddened to announce the namesake and inspiration for Ms. Rose’s, Rose “Roza” Mibab Goldberg, has passed away after a long and remarkable life. Rose was as a warrior, survivor, daughter, sister, wife, mother, grandmother and great grandmother, whose stories won’t soon be forgotten.
Ms. Rose’s also provided the following biography:
Rose “Roza” Mibab Goldberg—warrior, survivor, daughter, sister, wife, mother, grandmother and great grandmother—showed miraculous strength as she cycled through darkness and light, loss and creation in her inspirational existence.
Rose was born to Chaya and Chaim Mibab on December 5, 1923 (or 1924) in Wlodizmierz, Wolynski, Poland, known in Yiddish as Ludmir. Rose was the fourth of seven children. She remembered a warm and loving childhood, centered around family, food, work and Jewish tradition. She shared images of her as a little girl playing games with chestnuts, making rag dolls and bringing food each week before Shabbos to her beloved grandmother Yached, who was nearly deaf.
She also shared that each Friday, her family would bring the cholent pot to a communal oven where it would await them, steaming hot on Shabbos day.
She conjured memories of her mother Chaya’s Yiddusha kitchen, where she endlessly baked danish, challah, mandel bread, babka and other familiar pastries. Rose’s father Chaim owned two millinery factories/shops, one civilian and one military. Though Rose was meant to go to school, she preferred helping him with business and often pretended to go to school only to return to help run his civilian store. She described her father as having “golden hands” and said he worked so long and hard that he often did not return home to eat dinner until midnight.
Rose described her mother Chaya as a beautiful woman who always wore high-heeled shoes and who flirted with the military men who were their customers. Her mother also made a special project of marrying off orphans, matchmaking and raising funds for their weddings.
One of the Mibab’s shop locations was nearby the family business of Carl “Kisel” Goldberg (originally Goldenberg), eleven years Rose’s senior. Carl, who was only an acquaintance of Rose at the time, was married with a toddler daughter.
In 1939, when Rose was around 15 years old, the Nazis invaded Ludmir. Bombs were dropped, and many residents were killed, including Carl’s wife and child. Rose shared that Carl had been devastated by the loss and spent days searching through the rubble of the bombed building to find his family’s remains.
In the fall of 1941, the Nazis forced all of the Jews of Ludmir into the ghetto—an area in the commercial district of town, bordered by a river on one side and surrounded by high barbed wire.
The Mibab family was “lucky” that their civilian millinery business was located in the sequestered area, so they had a place to call home–one room shared by sixteen people sleeping on straw mattresses.
Rose was strong and was forced to work each day from early in the morning until late in the night digging up potatoes in frozen fields, cleaning Nazis’ homes or carrying human waste out of the ghetto. She shared that on a few occasions, a soldier held a gun to her head, and she escaped, running for her life. The Nazis rewarded a full day’s work with a cup of watery soup.
Carl, her childhood acquaintance, lonely and sad, sought solace in his friendship with the Mibab family. Since he worked caring for the German’s horses and as a translator (he spoke seven languages), he sometimes brought bread to the family.
When Carl fell ill in the ghetto, Rose helped nurse him back to health, bringing soup her mother made and spending time with him. Though he was a much older man, Rose said “he was the only man who could keep me awake.”
In September of 1942, the Germans staged their first of three aktions, systematic killings, in the ghetto. Rose, Carl and Rose’s younger brother Reuven escaped near death hiding in an attic. However, there were other members of their family who had a darker fate. During this first aktion, Carl’s father and three brothers were murdered along with Rose’s brother Bentzi and sister Ruchel, who never had the chance to marry her fiance Abe.
With the second aktion, in early 1943, Rose’s eldest brother Moishe was shot and killed leaving behind his wife Yenta and their baby Esther (Etl).
In December of 1943, the Nazis staged Judenrein, a plan to kill (or transport to death camps) all of the Jews of the city, designating the area free from Jewish presence.
During Judenrein, Rose shared that her mother gave her brother Herschel a small, precious apple as he left one day, when called to work. Rose also said that her father went to a makeshift shul to pray for his son’s safe return. Unfortunately, Herschel never returned, the makeshift shul was bombed and Chaim, Rose’s father, was killed.
Rose was “lucky” that her father Chaim had the foresight to dig a living grave in the ghetto, with an entrance made to look like a septic tank, and she was “lucky” that her father had paid a few former work associates who were Polish to hide his family.
When the Nazis came to search Rose’s family’s small room, they shot her sister-in-law, Yenta, but threw a straw mattress over Rose and did not see her. She described that, at that point, she planned to run stealthily towards the living grave. However, as she left, she saw her toddler niece, Esther, crouched in the corner of a shack. Her sister-in-law had left her there hoping that a Polish person would pick her up and take her to safety, but that had not happened. Rose knew that if she did not take Esther, the toddler would surely be killed. She scooped her niece into her arms and ran towards the living grave.
When Rose tried to enter the hiding place her father had built, there were numerous people already inside. Her own uncle refused to let them in saying the baby’s crying would get them all killed.
Rose said she retorted, “If you do not let me in, we will all get killed.” They let her in, but only if she promised to leave come morning.
Her younger brother Reuven, her sister-in-law Yenta’s little sister Chaike and her young cousin Sima also made it to the hiding place. Unfortunately, her mother and younger brother Peretz were taken by the Nazis. The story goes that brave little Peretz pulled his mother into a shoemaker’s shack on the side of the road where they hid, avoiding deportation to a death camp.
The next day, when Rose left that hiding place, she snuck with Esther, Chaike, Sima and Reuven to the house of a Polish woman named Wanda who had worked for her father.
Wanda’s father was a Polish police officer, which put all of them at great risk. Nonetheless, Wanda agreed to let them hide, temporarily, in her cold and damp potato cellar.
They stayed in the cellar, sitting on mounds of potatoes. Her mother and Peretz found them there. Though Chaya, the matriarch, was still alive, Rose explained that her mother had lost her strength from the loss of her husband and four of her seven children. Rose, the oldest of the surviving children, became the family leader.
After a number of nights with Wanda, Rose planned to go by herself to the next hiding place to ensure that the Polish farmer, Mietek Schimitzky, was still amenable to the plan. In the cover of night, Rose walked in snow up to her waist, six to seven miles, wearing boots, a nightgown and a jacket, all the way to the home of Schimitzky. She shared that she felt it was a miracle that she found his home since it was so dark and everything looked the same when covered by snow.
She described that, when she arrived, he let her lay her frostbitten body on his bread oven to warm up. She said that, through streaming tears, she convinced the Polish man to keep to his plan (despite his wife and daughters’ disagreement and extreme fear).
She told Mr. Schimitzky she would bring one child per night, so for the next number of nights, she walked back and forth in the snow, transporting her family to the hiding place.
A few days later, Carl, who had also escaped the ghetto and knew the Mibab’s hiding plans, found his surrogate family in their hiding place.
The hiding place was a hole underneath a barn that housed horses and cows. They spent months and months living under the ground. They had to use a bucket to relieve themselves, and there was so little oxygen in the space that they could barely breathe and could not light a match. At night, they would open the entrance of the hiding place to get air.
Rose recalled a day that she felt so claustrophobic that she risked her safety, exiting the hiding place in the daytime. Soon after, a couple of Nazi soldiers came to the barn. Her family, who remained underground, heard the soldiers’ voices and a gunshot and were sure she had been killed. However, she too had heard the Nazi voices and quickly hid. The gunshot was actually aimed at a pig. When she climbed back into the hiding spot hours later, she said her family was overjoyed to see her alive.
Once spring came, they used a small pipe to get air into the hole. They lived there for nearly a year, until the Nazis and Poles (today Ukrainians in that region) began fighting and burned down the barn and the house of the man who kept them.
They had to leave the hiding spot and began to wander in the forest. They slept on the ground and subsisted on raw potatoes. Carl had no choice but to work for the Polish partisans in order to get enough food for them to survive. Whenever he could, he snuck food to his surrogate family.
Eventually, they lost one another. Before he had started with the Polish partisans, he had given his civilian clothing to Rose. She saved them until after the war, carrying them with her, even when she no longer knew if he was alive. It was almost the end of the war when Rose, her mother and the children tried to move in the direction of the Russian military.
Near the end of 1944, they reached a town called Rogisht, which the Russians had occupied. Rose’s skin was rotting from all she had been through. A pharmacist survivor in the town took pity on her and made a special cream to help repair her skin. He also asked to marry her. Despite his kindness, and the comforts that a marriage to a pharmacist could bring to her family, Rose said no, holding onto an intention she said she had made during the war: if she and Carl both survived, she would marry him. She still did not know if he was dead or alive.
Other survivors, lonely from the loss of their loved ones and longing to have a family, asked for Rose’s hand in marriage, but she told them the same thing—she must wait to know about Carl.
Finally, she heard Carl had survived. He left the Polish partisans, creating the new dilemma of becoming a deserter who the partisans would want to capture and kill. He was elated to find Rose and her family. However, he was forced to hide from the partisans until things calmed.
After a month or two, they traveled back to their hometown of Ludmir, now occupied by the Russians. The Poles who had moved into the Mibab family’s home during the war moved out when Rose and her family returned, and she and her family, including Carl, moved into the home—described as a shell missing the spirit that once filled it. Of the 20,000 Jews who had lived in Ludmir before the war, only 100 had survived.
Rose and Carl married in January of 1945 at her home in Ludmir, surrounded by 250 Russian soldiers. For the wedding, she borrowed a green embroidered dress from a friend. There was no rabbi to perform the ceremony, so a religious Jew made a ketubah and married them.
They did not stay in Ludmir for long. Rose conveyed that the place that had once been their bustling, lovely home was now empty to them—empty of their possessions other than the bricks and mortar of a house, empty of the life they had once known and, most of all, empty of the many people they had loved. They also had no desire to live under the occupation of the Russians, another set of soldiers with another set of prejudices against foreigners and Jews.
In July of 1945, they left everything they had, which was not much, and traveled to Berlin hidden in the double walls of a Jewish Russian soldier’s truck. In Germany, their family of seven lived in one room of a military barrack in Eschwege by Kassel outside of Berlin, where Rose, pregnant with her first child, smuggled in flour, sugar and yeast, which her mother baked into rolls that they sold. Rose and Carl had a second wedding, this time married by a rabbi.
They saved money, worked to overcome illness and disease from their struggles, and waited for an opportunity to leave Germany. In 1946, Rose gave birth to Eva, which felt to her like a miracle after all her body had been through.
In 1947, Rose and Carl helped pay the way for Chaya, Reuven, Peretz, Esther and Chaike to go to Palestine. Sima also went to Palestine. There was not enough money for Rose, Carl and Eva to go along, so they planned to join them later and worked and saved to make that happen.
However, Chaya’s letters suggested that Rose, Carl and Eva should change their plans. She said they were living in tents in Palestine, hungry and unsure of the future. She convinced them to try to find a way to North America.
In 1949, Rose, Carl and their nearly three-year-old daughter Eva came to the United States sponsored by the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society (HIAS), which placed them in Jacksonville, Florida. Living in a foreign land where they did not speak English and had no money, family or friends was extraordinarily difficult, but Rose shared that it was still a welcome relief to the years of hell they had suffered.
With the same bravery, determination, fortitude and providence that helped them live through the war, they built a wonderful life in Jacksonville. They worked long, hard hours but, this time, rewarded with a paycheck rather than watery soup. They had two more daughters, Anita and Susie, and they bought a modest but beautiful home.
Through their unimaginable struggles, they carried light, which they spread to their extended family, community and friends. Rose and Carl were active members of their Jewish community, and Rose enthusiastically ran Jacksonville Hadassah’s thrift shop.
Their daughters were given a life full of love. All three educated themselves and raised beautiful families. Today Rose and Carl have not only three daughters but also seven grandchildren, seven great grandchildren and one more on the way. Each of these family members carry their values and their stories.
Despite the hate Rose encountered in her life, she lived with overflowing love. Rose charmed every animal she met; walked out of Costco with new friends following behind; hosted and fed endless guests in her home with tastes of old world Europe and overwhelmed her children, grandchildren, great grandchildren, nieces, nephews, friends and chosen family with the most extraordinary kind of love.
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