Jonas Schlanger was a born entrepreneur. Even as a child, in Poland he sold candies in the schoolyard to his fellow classmates! This is the very spirit that saved his life. His natural smarts, intuition, and business sense guided even when in a prison camp in Siberia.
For those of us who have never lived through a war or known oppression and persecution, it is hard to imagine what one would do to for the price of freedom. When my father saw a posting in the refugee camp at Bergen-Belsen looking for tailors to come to work in Canada, he told his brother, ‘Let’s sign up’. His brother Mendel said, ‘But we can’t sew,’ to which my father replied, ‘So what let’s try anyway. Let’s just see what happens.”
When my father realized there would be an actual exam, he knew he had to come up with a plan. My father was a businessman not tradesman or a craftsman, but craftiness led him to a solution to this problem. They would get two other people to write this exam for them – my mother’s brother, Uncle Moshe, who in fact was a tailor, being one of the ‘stand ins.’
My father in recounting this story would say, “I look in the window and I see the man hold the needle and with the cotton he goes, whoosh, through the needle hole and I know right away, I go to Canada…I go to freedom!”
When Jonas got to Canada with Mary Schlanger and their two babies Chaya and Liba, he was assigned to work in a sweatshop to which he protested, “But I’m not a Tailor!”… to which the authorities protested, “Then how did you get here?”… to which my father simply said, “With the ship – just like everyone else!”
My father did work temporarily hammering springs in an upholstery factory but that didn’t last long. He decided he was born for business and he would open a store. He and Mary Schlanger worked day and night in their fish market which was later converted to a shoe store, raised 4 daughters….and enjoyed freedom at last.