• Sanja Simper


This paper studies the childhood of Dr. Leo H. Sternbach, an eminent American scientist, in his native Opatija in the period of 1908 – 1921. His father, Mihael Abraham Sternbach, a Polish Jew, after completing his studies in pharmacy and after a short practice in Poland moved to Opatija at the beginning of the 20th century. There, he successfully ran a rented pharmacy and met his future wife, Piroska Kohn. The family played an important role in the life of the Jewish community of Opatija so Mihael A. Sternbach filled the post of The Community’s president in the period from 1923 to 1926 after it was legally constituted. They lived in a rented flat on the second floor of the Villa Jadran, close to the pharmacy and on the main street of Opatija. Two sons, Leo and Gyula were to be born in Opatija. Leo, the older one, will finish his elementary school there. However, because of Italian occupation in 1918 and the annexation of Opatija to the Kingdom of Italy, German schools were closed down so he could not continue his education in German language. Leo was to carry on his schooling in Villach first, then Graz (Austria) and complete it in Bielitz (Bielsko – Biała) in Silesia, southern Poland, where the family moved in 1926. This decision was taken on grounds of economic as well as other problems that emerged as consequences of altered political circumstances in Opatija. This paper is also partly based on autobiographical notes by Dr. Leo Henryk Sternbach and the interviews conducted with him through e – mail in May 2005.

Key words:, Leo H. Sternbach, biography; Jewish community, Opatija/Abbazia, Croatia, 19th, 20th century