Updated 5/23/05

Family Chronology

Alexander and Vera Robichek--1925

Alex RobichekVera (3rd from left)Alex was born on October 31, 1925.  His Hebrew middle name was Avram.  Vera was born on October 20, 1927.  They were both born in Belgrade.

Their first language was German because Marianne couldn’t speak Yugoslavian (Serbian).  Until they were 4 and 2, they lived at a match factory where their grandfather was director; after he died they moved to an apartment in Belgrade.

Nearby was a stable where carriage horses were kept.  Once, Alex took Vera to see a brand new foal.  Vera decided to examine the foal’s hoof and got kicked in the head in the process.  She still has a small scar on her forehead and for years Alex teased her about being kicked in the head.

Both Alex and Vera were well-behaved yet mischievous children and close as siblings, becoming even closer during WWII.  Vera idolized her father and was somewhat rebellious with her mother.  Alex, on the other hand, was not very close to his father as a youngster.  His mother catered to him.  Adolf’s mother (Regina Lipkovic) favored Alex over Vera, cooking things that he liked as opposed to Vera’s favorites.  On the other hand, Marianne’s mother (Dorothea Hoffman) favored Vera over Alex.  Alex was Dorothea's only grandson out of six grandchildren and she treated him unfairly.

Regina LipkovicWhen Vera was 11, she and a friend decided to try smoking.  Although they hid on the balcony, a friend of her father's saw them.  That evening, Adolf told her that if she wanted to smoke, he would teach her to do it properly.  He got strong cigarettes, sat her and Alex down and proceeded to show them how to inhale....soon there were two green-faced and sick Robicheks.  Although Alex later smoked in the Army, he was never truly comfortable doing it.

During visits to Stockerau/Vienna, Alex and Vera would sing Yugoslav/Serb patriotic songs which were anti-German in nature.  Marianne was concerned that someone would understand the lyrics and asked them to stop.  Dorothea was upset that Marianne was trying to silence the children “who sang so beautifully” and encouraged them to sing more.  Marianne was too embarrassed to admit to her mother the actual meaning of these songs.

Things came easily to Alex; he was always getting straight A’s with little effort (he’d play all day and suddenly realize that he had homework, which he would then finish in no time at all).  Once he received an A- and was devastated!  His father believed Alex would either rise to the top or sink to the bottom in life, with little chance of falling in between.  He was well-rounded--wonderful dancer, good athlete (in his twenties he played in ping-pong exhibitions and won the Army tournament in Germany), notorious joke teller--yet humble as a human being.

When the kids were 12 and 10, they lived on the 4th floor of a big apartment building.  Here they did a good job of getting into mischief.  When it snowed, Vera packed snowballs and Alex threw them from the balcony at passersby with great accuracy; once, a man who had been hit on the head came upstairs with the elevator operator, who couldn’t believe that the two well-behaved Robichek children would do something so cruel.  By the time he got to the door, they had destroyed the “evidence” and were innocently playing chess.  Sometimes they would put water on the sidewalk, let it freeze, then cover it with snow.  People would fall and Alex and Vera would play good samaritan and help them up.  Luckily no one was injured.

Alex once received an archery set as a gift.  The arrows had suction cups on the tips.  Alex decided to play William Tell, placed an apple on Vera’s head, and aimed, missing the apple but hitting her smack in the middle of the forehead.  Instead of carefully releasing the suction cup, Alex pulled it off, leaving a bright red circle on Vera’s forehead for weeks.  Marianne promptly got rid of the archery set.

Their parents used to give them money to buy books; instead of buying new books, they bought used ones and split the difference for pocket money.  Alex used to get the books from the mediocre students (since they were hardly used).  Adolf’s cousin owned a printing/binding shop and paper mill factory and Vera would have him bind her old books.

Alex and Vera rarely fought, but one time Vera was upset with Alex and she said to him, “I wish you were dead!”  She immediately was sorry for saying that, but before she could say so to him, Marianne ordered her to apologize.  Vera wanted Alex to know she was genuinely sorry (as opposed to being forced to apologize by her mother) and refused.  Marianne was furious and hit Vera, breaking a wooden spoon on her rear.  Still Vera defied her mother.  Finally Marianne gave up, frustrated and in tears.  Only then did Vera tell Alex she was truly sorry and had not meant it.  Although Marianne never understood Vera's motivation, Adolf, upon returning home, heard the story and took pride that Vera stood up for her beliefs.

Alex loved to play soccer and other sports, and hung out with the athletic kids in the neighborhood.  He would do their homework for them so they could come out and play.  He was always very bright, but didn’t associate with the brainy element.  He was great at marbles, winning many from his friends.  Being enterprising, he would place them in marble containers and sell them back to the other kids.

Alex was always very down to earth and didn’t choose his associations based on someone’s status or lack thereof.  He didn’t do things because they were popular, but because he believed in them.  For example, in the 1950s when he was in the U.S. Army in Germany, he volunteered to room with a black man.  Because there were four men to a room, that meant that the other two had to accept him, which they did.  This lifelong sense of fair play and reliability Alex got from his father.

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