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Posts Tagged ‘grandmother’

Grandma, This Is How I Remember You

Thursday, May 5th, 2011

Grandma, This Is How I Remember You

[Fonts: Little Days, Hobo and Adler.]

In the left photo you can see my grandma holding her first born, my mother (circa 1948) and on the right you can see me and grandma at the park near her home (circa 1988). 40 years apart – still beautiful.

Let me tell you some more about my grandmother.

She was born in Poland to an affluent family of merchants and Jewish scholars.

Her family was ultra-orthodox, Chassidic. Her parents had 10 children in total.

When she was a young adult she started questioning her parents’ Chassidic ways and had secretly joined a more secular Zionist group.

She was very careful not to hurt her father’s feelings and would leave home wearing long sleeved shirts and long skirts and then change into more modern apparel and meet with her Zionist friends.

Not long afterward she fell in love with a beautiful young student who shared her modern viewpoint and after awhile they got engaged.

Sadly, her beloved fiance was caught “in the line of fire” in an outburst against the Jews in the community and was hanged then and there in the center of the neighborhood.

She was heartbroken but determined to keep on living.

Just a couple years later, WW2 started and Hitler occupied Poland.

My grandma remembered the day the Nazis came to her neighborhood and started lining up all the jews. She and her family members ran out into the chilling evening and into the woods.

My grandma had blond hair and blue eyes and was well educated [thus fluent in Polish and Russian] so she could pass for a non-jew, which was what had saved her life and prevented her from the destiny of most of her other family members [very unsettling but true].

She was hidden for about a year, working as a potato peeler in a remote peasants’ inn until someone found out she is Jewish and asked for things she refused to give in return for his silence…

She took off immediately and ran towards the Russian border, where she was caught as an enemy of the country [being Polish…] and sent to a hard labor camp in Siberia.

In Siberia she had to stand all day with light clothes and thin soled shoes and cut trees, in the burning cold (up to minus 40 degrees in the wintertime). She received a portion of 1 coarse loaf of stale bread and 1 cup of water a day and watched hundreds of people give up and die – every single day. But my grandmother endured until the war was over.

Then she came back to Germany and got reunited with her brother. Only 2 brothers had survived the Holocaust (and 1 sister who had left for Israel before the war started and survived as well).

In Germany she met my grandfather who had lost his family as well. They fell in love and got married and had my mother while they were still living in Berlin.

Thereafter my grandparents left Berlin and came to Israel where they started their own restaurant in downtown Haifa and they had both lived in Haifa until their last day.

My grandma was a hard working woman and a survivor. She had strong determination to work as long as she could.

My grandma also had the type of charisma that drew people towards her wherever she went and whatever she did.

She was a generous person who always loved to host as many guests as possible and prepare noteworthy dinners for everyone.

She had led a long, laborious but fulfilling life – a real inspiration to everyone.

In Her Memory

Wednesday, April 27th, 2011

Yesterday I came back from a homeland visit and welcoming me back were the news of my grandmother’s passing.

In these sad moments I had some comfort in the fact that just the day before I managed to visit her at the hospital and say my mental goodbye.

Visiting her was a hard decision for me.

I remember my grandmother as a beautiful, beautiful woman, always taking pride in her impeccable appearance.

She had beautiful blond hair and big blue-gray eyes. I wish I had some photos with me so I could show you how gorgeous she was. Every picture looks like it was taken on the red carpet in a Hollywood-ian premiere.

When I was young she used to take me home from kindergarten and later from school and spend the day with me until my father picked me up in the evening or in the late afternoon.

She would go over the yellowing pictures and tell me the stories behind the 2-D photos and then she would start telling me stories she made up or read in Polish and translated for me.

Her patience was endless and she kept going and going and never grew tired of telling me all these marvelous stories that I enjoyed so much.

I am sure she had contributed to my love of story telling just as much as my parents have.

When I was a teenager she got Alzheimer and little by little she grew smaller and smaller until she became just a shadow of her glorious self.

In my mind’s eye she was beautiful and glamorous and it was difficult for me to watch her being anything else.

At the hospital she was hardly breathing, half comatose.

I looked at her and tears started pushing at my eyelids and a big knot started forming in my throat. I could hardly say a word.

Watching her shriveled in an impersonal hospital bed broke my heart.

Her eyes were partly closed and the light taken out of them. Her big beautiful eyes weren’t glowing anymore.

I said “Hello, grandmother” and for a split second I thought she might have heard me. Her eyebrows raised and then dropped again.

I tried to touch her, gently, but she pulled back, as if my gentle stroke was hurting her.

I wanted to sing to her. I wanted to sing the Polish song she taught me as a child “Zashale Gurale”, but I couldn’t say a word. I just looked at her, silently, and sang it in my heart. Hoping she had somehow heard me.

I am glad I had the chance to see my grandmother, just a couple days before her passing but I don’t want to ever remember seeing her like that.

For me my grandmother, Gutta, would always be that beautiful lady.

Wearing pink lipstick and a fabulous dress or a figure hugging suit, putting to shame the fashionistas on “Mad Men”.

For me she would always have light in her eyes and lots of spirit.

Telling me stories in half (or quarter…) Hebrew and half Yiddish and Polish (languages that I have never understood).

For me she would always be the grandmother who asks me if I want a piece of cake and then making the cake from scratch, just for me.

She would always be the grandmother who brings huge jars of scrumptious handmade cookies that disappear in a matter of hours.

She would always be that grandmother. For me.

I love you, savta. May you rest in peace.