Friday, August 8, 2014

Survivors

I called them Bubby and Zeidi; the English translation of these Yiddish words are grandmother and grandfather, respectively.  To me, Bubby was loving, family oriented and skillful, while Zeidi was funny, sarcastic, and patriarchal.  When I think of them as I knew them it is nauseating to imagine their lives before living in Brooklyn, New York.

Bubby and Zeidi met and fell in love in the woods of Poland, hiding from Hitler.  They were both Holocaust survivors, and to comprehend what they went through is exhausting to my thinking.  They hid together in fox holes like animals, trying to escape being treated as such.  My caring grandmother and humorous grandfather stole food for survival, ignoring any personal beliefs they felt about keeping kosher in their Jewish religion.

I think one of the worst events that my Bubby went through was watching her own mother and sister get shot by a Polish officer, the same officer that let her go.  The shear terror of seeing your family members killed in front of you is unimaginable in my safe life.  I think about how she later played Rummy Q with me and cannot help but wonder how she could.  Bubby lovingly and gently cared for my bee sting, after spending years literally running for her life.

Zeidi was never good about sharing his own stories from the Holocaust, he was the head of the house.  I know he would leave personal belongings in the homes of strangers, hoping that he could later return and ask for a bite of food.  Yet, all I see is my grandfather leading us for a Passover Seder, and laughing at his grandchildren's jokes.

I am a 34 year old woman and I still mourn the loss of my grandparents.  My Zeidi died when I was 17 years old, and I felt like I lost my best friend.  He taught me things that I can never forget, like how to stand strong and spend your life laughing.  My Bubby passed away just last year, and though she was not well when she went, there was something extra sad when she finally left us.  Bubby was an exceptional woman who always showed me love and sincerity.  Her famous phrase was, "I live for my grandchildren."  Bubby loved to cook enourmous meals for the family, played games with me, and listened intently to my words.

Even as I write this, my eyes fill with tears, such incredible and important people to our history no longer exist.  I need to write this as much as it needs to be read and shared.  To let their memory die is dangerous, and to not repeatedly tell their story is threatening.  They were part of the last generation of Holocaust survivors, and they are my family.

Over the past year, I wondered how to feel closure on the sadness I felt when my Bubby died.  This morning, as I showered and readied for the day I realized that there cannot ever be closure on the lives of my grandparents.  They need to be honored every day for their struggle and the tremendous impact their history has on this world. Their story will always need to be shared and made public, so that no one ever faces their horrors again.  As their grandaughter it is one of my duties to never let them fade from my memories and to pass on their strengths to others.

So while we gripe with our everyday dilemmas over which cell phone to buy next, let us never forget the pasts of others that let us have these free and enjoyable days.  Lets all remember loved ones the way I think of Bubby and Zeidi, and tell their stories.  I encourage you to share this with everyone, and take a moment to be thankful for our lives.  To always find humor as my Zeidi did, and to love our family with your whole heart the way my Bubby did.

So maybe my closure is to speak, to write, and to share.

2 comments:

  1. Teary eyed reading this. Thanks for sharing.

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  2. Amen! Those who survived the WWII generation and the Holocaust are great grandparents in many cases and soon may no longer be with us. I wasn't afforded the opportunity to know my grandparents who all passed while I was very young. I'm happy you did. They sound amazing and special.
    We live such sheltered bubble wrapped lives and have no idea what it's like to truly struggle. Not the way they did. It's scary to me to see kids these days so self absorbed, interested only in their own little techy worlds, so overprotected while they have their noses pressed into their iPads. I hope, one day, they understand exactly what you are trying to get across. To never forget and more importantly to give respect where respect is due.

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