Lina Beresin of Kovno
Lina (left) and her sisters, Betty and Anna, Oct. 1945
The bra that Lina made in Stutthof
“In the less than one percent hope that my daughter is alive, and in the event that she will visit the Yad Vashem museum and will come across my name, even if it happens in years’ time, I would like you to call me ‘Lina Beresin of Kovno.’” Thus Lina wrote in Yiddish, in a 1968 letter.
Lina was born in 1910 in Lithuania. She married Jacob Beresin in 1933 and moved to Kovno. Her daughter Shulamit was born in 1935. In 1941, all of the local Jews were interned in the ghetto. In the March 1944 children’s Aktion, Shulamit was taken to Auschwitz, where she was apparently murdered. When the ghetto was liquidated in July 1944, Lina and her two sisters were deported to Stutthof Camp, where Lina made herself a bra. Her husband was sent to Dachau and perished.
Lina and her sisters survived. She immigrated to Mexico, where she remarried.
They dressed us in prisoners’ outfits—men’s striped pants and a men’s shirt or jacket.
I couldn’t walk around without a bra. As a professional seamstress, I began to imagine how I might make myself a bra, and what materials I would use. As they say, “Seek and ye shall find.”
My two sisters received men’s jackets that had lined sleeves. I removed the lining from the sleeves and now had some fabric. From my men’s shirt, I removed three buttons. A woman who found a needle in her jacket gave it to me in exchange for a full day’s food ration. I unraveled thread from the ribbon that trimmed the blanket, and now had everything that I needed to sew the bra.
But then the most complicated problem of all emerged: where does one get scissors? But since “necessity is the mother of invention,” the idea came to me that I could do the cutting with a shard of glass.
After searching all over the barracks, I found a broken window and removed a shard of glass from it. I lay on the ground with my fabric and the shard of glass and I cut out my prized item. Then I sewed it.
I wore the bra for almost seven months, until the liberation on January 23, 1945.
I was the only woman among thousands who had such a piece of clothing. The others envied me and longed for a bra.