Nitza, my dear life-partner (on the left in the pic below) has just posted this memoir on Facebook, & I want to share it here, also as a small picture from a history of the history that I married into & that has been part of my own history & life for the past 51+ years now:
Between the Two Sisters (A Chapter)
Something personal I wrote on the eve of Holocaust Remembrance Day 2016.
I wrote it in English, although Hebrew is the language I was born into, and I asked my devoted life-partner Richard to go over it and help me so it will be readable.
It has to be in English as I want my four grandchildren who are brought up in Australia to be able to read it at some time in their life.
We are two sisters, born three years apart during the time of World War 2.
Not in Poland where the horrors happened, and where all my parents’ families were living, but in sunny, white, modern and young Tel Aviv (the first Hebrew city of modern times), a city that was built with tremendous energies, on the uninhabited sands of the shore of the Mediterranean Sea, north of old Jaffa.
My parents took part in living in and building this city and this dream. They came to Palestine in the early 1930s, like and with many others young people, in their early 20s, leaving their families, following their dream of a new world, a new way of life, in an independent Jewish homeland. Choosing to become pioneers, hard workers, in a hot and unknown land, and to build a new home, rebelling against the old oppressed way of living in Europe. I still keep in my archive letters sent to them from their families, and old photos of their life in Europe, that my father kept all his life in little packages tied with rubber bands, but never shared with us. I found out that my father’s mother also knew how to write in modern Hebrew, I guess she was a Zionist herself, as I also know that his parents helped him with the ticket to Palestine.
My sister Tamar was born in 1940, a year or so after Poland was occupied by the Nazis. Although letters stopped arriving in 1939, I believe my parents did not grasp what was going on.
Tamar is an ancient Hebrew name, it is the name of the tree that bears dates, a tall, strong and nourishing tree which can survive on very little water in hot countries. A symbol of life in the Jewish tradition. This is what my parent wished for her and for themselves. To this day my sister Tamar is strong and tall and was able to raise and nourish her own family and have a stable life.
I was born three years later in 1943, and I understand that by then my parents knew much more. This was the year the Soviet Army managed to stop the Nazi invasion, but the slaughter of the Jews in Poland was enormous. I keep feeling that my grandparents, my two aunts and my little three-year-old cousin David were murdered while I was in my mother’s womb.
They named me Nitzhia, a name which is an invention of the new modern Hebrew, a word that contains in it three powerful somewhat mystical words: victory, eternity, and one of the names of God.
I keep thinking today that this name given to me must have come from desperation of not being able to do a thing in the face of the human degeneration… – to seek comfort in some spiritual power.
I don’t have any memory of them using this name when talking to me or talking about me, as I only remember the name Nitza, which means the season of budding, more optimistic and close to nature. But they kept the official name in all the official important documents, as if to tell me again and again not to forget the name I was given.
They did not talk much, I didn’t understand much until I grew up. My mother was saved by her own motherhood experience, she kept some joyful energies with a touch of cynicism, while my father became more and more closed, detached, depressed, with unexpected bursts of anger.
I don’t know exactly how the events of history, biography and the name I was given influenced who I became to be, but I do know that since early childhood I have recorded memories like short movies in my mind, and I have made it a kind of emotional routine to revisit and see them again and again as in my private video library, consciously reliving what I kept.
I feel my own little victory will be to tell about them in writing, and by this bring them closer to eternity, for me, for my parents, for my only sister, for the family Richard and I made, for my grandparents and family I never knew.