Ilse Bulova (Simachowitz) (1903 - 1987)

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Place of Burial: New Milford, Litchfield, Connecticut, United States
Birthplace: Hynčice, Náchod District, Hradec Králové Region, Czech Republic
Death: Died in New Milford, Litchfield, Connecticut, United States
Occupation: Schoolteacher
Managed by: David André Broniatowski
Last Updated:
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Immediate Family

About Ilse Bulova (Simachowitz)

Ilse Bulova, daughter of Otto Simachowitz and Rosa Broniatowski, was born in Heinzendorf, Austria-Hungary (now Hynčice, Czech Republic). She and her husband, Dr. Ernst Bulova, were Austrian educators living in Germany in the early 20th century. Dr. Bulova ran an educational radio program in Berlin, but following the Nazis' rise to power he and his wife were forced to flee to England, where Dr. Bulova became co-director of the Beltane School in Wimbledon. With the help of relatives who owned the Bulova Watch Company, Dr. and Mrs. Bulova emigrated to the United States in 1940 to find a refuge for British children during World War II. The site chosen was hilly farmland in the Merryall region of New Milford, but since crossing the Atlantic had become too treacherous, the plan was abandoned and Ernst and Ilse convinced their relatives to sell the land to them. Thus began Buck’s Rock Work Camp, where the Bulovas put into practice some of their Montessori-based principles on how children learn and grow. The earliest campers came from two of Manhattan’s progressive schools, The Dalton School and The Walden School. In addition to learning about New Milford’s small-town governance, the children worked on neighboring farms to alleviate the wartime manpower shortage. Once the war ended, the camp really took off and a unique program of creative and artistic endeavors evolved.

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Ilse Bulova's Timeline

1903
January 7, 1903
Hynčice, Náchod District, Hradec Králové Region, Czech Republic
1933
1933
Age 29
1940
September 7, 1940
- September 22, 1940
Age 37
Boston, Suffolk, Massachusetts, United States

Joanna Bulova describes the voyage aboard the Nerissa as follows: "The story of our voyage on the Nerissa is one of the few things our mother told us about. Apparently when we boarded in Liverpool the bombing was so intense that it took all day to board because no sooner had we started than there would be another air raid and everyone would have to run for the shelters. The white dress my mother had put on me for the occasion was black with ashes and soot by the time we finally boarded.

She was full of admiration for the captain, saying he was such a nice man, and we often ate at his table (especially since many of the other passengers were seasick most of the time). The Nerissa was a comparatively small ship and, in a previous life, had been a cruise ship. We were in a large convoy, surrounded by destroyers, but still many ships went down. In fact on it's return trip, the Nerissa was sunk by a torpedo and the captain went down with his ship, something my mother was always sad about.

My father was not on the passenger list because he had preceded us by several months. He had been interned by the British in a little discussed or remembered wartime policy of putting all German speaking people including Jews(!) in camps, on the grounds that they might assist the Germans(!) during the expected invasion. My father became very upset because he felt that if such an invasion happened all the camp inhabitants would immediately be turned over to the Nazis. So he began to organize an escape by digging a tunnel. My mother, knowing of this, was terribly worried that he would be shot trying to escape and spent months getting the British to promise to release him if she took him out of the country, which is finally what happened thanks to the Bulova family.

By the way the tunnel and shovels were discovered and the camp commander put the whole camp on bread and water rations to try and get them to say who was behind the attempt. Everyone refused to talk, though they all knew, and the commander finally had to give in.

Interesting sidelights on the whole experience. In the lead-up to the war many in the British upper classes were quite fascistic and sympathetic to the Nazis, which my parents were well aware of at the time."

1987
October 16, 1987
Age 84
New Milford, Litchfield, Connecticut, United States