Someone forwarded me an article the other day which I happened to read. In my drive for organization, I often delete this type of item with barely a glance. I take great joy and feel a sense of accomplishment when my inbox is empty (unlike my gas tank). Everything has been handled – ahh, relax. Anyway, the article is about a Jewish man who is 101 years old. He and his wife lived in Poland around World War II. They left their one and a half year old daughter on a doorstep of a lawyer and his wife who did not have a child. They hoped that the lawyer and his wife wanted a child. They put a crucifix on her and a note begging that she be taken care of. What must that have been like – leaving your baby on the steps of a stranger ignoring her cries as you walk away? I can’t imagine. Ultimately, the man survived the Holocaust, but his wife did not. He also fought as part of the Warsaw Ghetto uprising. The article goes on to tell of the difficulties the man had in finding his daughter after the war and the life they made for themselves.
Yesterday was August 10th, the day of my maternal grandmother’s birthday. Actually, that is when she celebrated it. Her birthday and the exact year she was born remain a mystery. Records were not kept in Russia when she was born, at least not for Jews. It’s as if she and all the Jews did not matter all that much. They could live on their shtetls and try to avoid pogroms and eke out a living, but as individuals they did not matter. Ultimately, my grandmother, along with three of her siblings and her mother, escaped Russia and after an extended stop-over in Romania made it to America where her father had been working for 10 years in order to bring them over. A few years after arriving in America, my grandmother met my grandfather and the rest is history – well family history – as they say. My grandmother chose to have her birthday on August 10th because that was also her wedding anniversary (Yesterday would have been their 81st anniversary. My paternal grandparents got married August 9th 80 years ago.) I think that says a great deal about the kind of person she was. Birthdays are a time when an individual is celebrated – cake, presents, etc. However, she chose to forego all that and instead celebrate her birth on the same day as her marriage. My grandmother faced the difficulties an immigrant faces in addition to medical and financials struggles, but she and my grandfather got by. Ultimately, for my grandmother it was about family, the kinder, – that was the most important thing to her.
My grandmother and the gentleman noted above come from a different world than the one we live in today. It was a world where Jews were irrelevant and much worse. It is easy to imagine that the drive to survive in a hard world could leave one bitter and angry. However, the tonic they found in family is one we can all look to today as well.