This I Believe

Edith - Tarrytown, New York
Entered on August 16, 2006
Age Group: 65+

Father died on Saturday, June 24th and was buried at a graveside service on Monday, June 26th. next to mother, his sweetheart and next to a son-in-law, missed for 17 years.

Rain was likely. We considered moving indoors, but “no”. Father would not have been daunted by rain.

As rain fell, a granddaughter recalled her trip around the world after high school with her grandparents. A grandson had chosen a car. “I was shy in those days. The car was a big help.”

Another said, “They were fun; the only people I know who saw “O Calcutta” twice.

Great grandchildren spoke: “Grandpa gave me grandmother’s ring to give to my fiancée, spoke on the phone to my son born one month ago.”

“We spoke French and German; he was proud of knowing many languages, happy that I took after him.”

“We played endless games of geography. He let me make up names.”

The youngest grandson recalled grandpa saying, “We are Mishpocha – kin – held together by values.” “I laughed,” he continued, “How can you say that Grandpa? No two of us agree on anything. But Grandpa was right. We are held together not by blood ties or beliefs. By being are responsible for one another.”

A friend said after the funeral: “it is all about family.”

Father survived the Holocaust, loved Israel; was a proud citizen of “the greatest country in the world.” A secular Jew, he thought his descendants should marry Jews, raise Jewish children. When the first non-Jewish fiancée was introduced into the family, he echoed Mother’s words: “I will not treat another woman’s child as “they treated mine.”

Through marriages, our family became linked with other strong families. Some In-laws experiencing us reached out to their alienated folk.

In 1939, our Polish town was invaded by the Red Army. Our family was persecuted for being well-off and educated, causing Father’s parents to flee. Father blames the Russians for his mother’s death from typhus, his father’s suicide on way to a Nazi concentration camp.

During occupations, Russian, Nazi, Russian again, Father saved our family and others. He improvised, posing as a Polish officer, a German. He perservered even as he suffered from a bleeding duodenal ulcer.

Jews asked Christian friends to hide their children because children were being killed by Nazis. My parents tried twice to give us away. I ran away, taking my sister along. Father saw this as an omen; the family would survive or perish together.

Father was handsome, brilliant, accomplished. But the gravestone says: Father, Grandfather, Great and Great-Great Grandfather.

This I believe: our strength was our family.