Centropa’s AudioWalks take you on a journey through the Jewish history of Central and Eastern Europe.

Use our multimedia maps, and explore the family pictures, archival material, and personal stories of 21 Jewish Holocaust survivors to get a unique insight into Europe’s rich Jewish heritage, and to discover sites of Jewish life in towns in Moldova, Ukraine, Belarus and Lithuania.

Licurici Puppet Theatre
Licurici Puppet Theatre

French high school Jeanne d’Arc

Element 340
31 August 1989 Street
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Wealthy Jewish families in Chișinău often sent their children to prestigious schools. In the immediate vicinity of the Liceul Principesa Natalia Dadiani was the French high school Jeanne d’Arc, another high school for girls, which was not only attended by Jewish students. Only those who could afford it were able to send their children to that school.

One of the Jewish students at Joan of Arc High School was Polina Leibovich in the 1930s. She was born in Chișinău in 1924 and came from a wealthy Jewish family. In the Centropa interview, which was conducted in 2004, she remembered her school days:

After graduating from elementary school, I went to the French Jeanne D’Arc gymnasium. It was a private gymnasium, the most prestigious and the most expensive in town. There was competition to enter the Dadiani and Regina Maria gymnasiums, but not to our school. They charged a lot and admitted all who could afford to send their children to study there. We had French teachers, Monsieur Clemant, the language teacher, Madame Pobelle, and Madame Pizolit. They were intelligent and educated people knowing the etiquette. We had summer and winter uniforms. The winter uniform was a black gown with a white collar and the school emblem on it, dark blue coats and hats with small rims, decorated with a ribbon from the same fabric. In summer we wore skirts and white blouses. When the fascists came to power in Romania, we began to wear a plain uniform of a military kind. […]

My favorite subjects were botany and natural sciences. I liked flora and animals, but French language was my favorite. […] Our teachers told us that we had to read aloud to hear ourselves to master the pronunciation. I could read books in French and this helped me to enrich my vocabulary. I always looked up new words in the dictionary. I didn’t do that well in maths, and in senior grades my parents even hired a private teacher for me. In Chişinău it was quite common to hire school graduates or senior students to give private classes, so I had one. They were mostly Jews since it was more difficult for Jews to find jobs in Chişinău, and they gave private classes.

There was no anti-Semitism in our school. My closest and best friend was Mania Feider, a Jewish girl. Her father was a commercial agent, and her mother was a housewife. They were wealthy, but they didn’t own a house. They rented an apartment. We spent all our free time together. […] We trusted each other with our secrets and read books together. Mania and I liked knitting and embroidery. Mania perished in the Chişinău Ghetto during the war.

Polina Leibovich survived the Holocaust, returned to Chișinău after the war and worked as a French teacher. The building of the French high school Jeanne d’Arc no longer exists today. Since 1991, the Licurici puppet theater is located here, slightly back from the street.

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