Thursday, May 23, 2013

Looking Forward

Yesterday was the 70th anniversary of my Grandmother's murder.  Seventy years is a lifetime for many, and my own mother just passed that milestone.  Late last year she was able to visit the place my grandmother was initially buried , at the bottom of a garden in an outer suburb of Warsaw. Today, a large rock marks that place.  It was moved there a decade ago, by Iwona, the granddaughter of the woman who hid my mother and her family in her home, until they were discovered.  Next to the rock, trees whisper their secrets to the few who know what happened here.

The rock no longer symbolizes only death.  To us, it's a new beginning.
Iwona and her family light candles and pray for my grandmother and the two other women who were also killed.  They visit my grandmother's newer burial place at a cemetery nearby.
 Their family has a history of sheltering and helping Jews and others in need.  Today in Poland, where around 95% of the population self-identify as Catholic, there is a new awakening and awareness  - a recognition of the loss of  rich Jewish heritage, and, attempts to bring it back .    Jewish festivals in Krakow, Warsaw and throughout Poland, allow new generations to partake and remember.   A group of dedicated young people in Otwock  and other towns created  Jewish History trails, so that locals have knowledge of the legacy of their town. Last month the Museum of the History of Polish Jews opened in Warsaw.

An engraver is preparing a plaque for the stone at the bottom of the garden.  He said to me on the phone, "My wife  discovered that the Jewish tradition is to place stones on a grave."
"Yes," I told him.  "Stones do not die and last forever."
"Then we shall place stones there in memory of your grandmother and a terrible time in history."

Yes, surveys continue to show that there is still antisemitism in Europe, but  there is also progress. I know my Grandfather would prefer to embrace the progress  - he often impressed on me the role of non-Jewish  Poles in saving his life and many others. Although I never met her, I like to think that my Grandmother would have thought the same.