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Friday, September 5, 2008

An interesting article

The article below was posted on the Czernowitz email list, a group of people with interests and/or connections to the city. I believe I read a much less detailed account of the same reunion in a newspaper a few months before my trip, before the name Czernowitz meant a lot to me.

Menachem Av 11, 5768 · August 12, 2008
For Sixty-Five Years I Thought She was Dead
A Wondrous Reunion
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By Mirish Kiszner

Simon Glasberg never forgot his sister Hilda.
When the Germans entered their home town of
Chernowitz, Romania, she was smuggled into the
Soviet Union. Simon and his family never heard
from her again.
Simon knew that Hitler, may his name be blotted
out, had sought to strip every Jew of his
identity, his individuality. Mass deportation,
mass shootings and mass graves were their modus
operandi. To them, every Jew was a faceless,
nameless victim, unworthy, not only of the breath
of his life, but also of the memory of his name.
But daily, Simon witnessed his father's sorrow,
his mother's anguish. They wouldn't, couldn't,
ever forget her. Hilda's memory etched itself
onto the lives of his parents. Their heart
wrenching sighs filled their home, magnifying
Simon's own bereavement over the precious sister
he once knew.
Yet time has a way of dulling the harshest of
sorrows. Simon got married, built a family, and
the grief receded somewhat, though never quite
disappeared.
Shortly before Rosh Hashana 2006, Simon's nephew,
Dr. Eric Weiner, touched upon those suppressed
memories, bringing them achingly into sharp
focus, once again.
"Did you know that my father had submitted pages
of testimony to Yad Vashem before his death?" he
asked.
It took a minute for Simon to comprehend what his nephew was referring to.
"Ah, Yad Vashem!" He said at last. "How we wanted
to perpetuate the memories of Hilda! My lovely
sister, Hilda. Oh, Eric, you know how much my
parents searched for her, do you? We a ll did. We
looked and looked and couldn't find her. How much
they criedS" His voice cracked. The tears flowed.
"You know Eric," he said after he'd collected
himself, "We searched everywhere, even in Israel,
while fighting in the War of Independence, we
didn't forget about Hilda. Young, beautiful
Hilda. But we didn't find a trace of her. My
brother went back to the Ukraine to look for her.
Nothing. She had simply vanishedS"
Would his nephew understand? Could he imagine
what it meant to live with the pain of his
parents, his own pain, for so many years? All the
many years faded away. Simon found himself once
again crouching in a cellar trembling in fear
lest the Nazis discover their hideout. His
parents plan had been to smuggle the family into
the Soviet Union. Hilda had been the first to
leave, the rest were to follow shortly.
They'd never made it though, Simon reflected.
Crossing the borders illegally proved too risky
an undertaking for a family with young children.
Poor, little Hilda. What did she think? Did she
suppose that her family had abandoned her just
like that, with nary a thought about her?
Dr. Weiner cleared his throat, interrupting
Simon's ruminations. "Yad Vashem," he said,
"makes every effort to redeem these victims as
individuals. That's what the pages of testimony
are all about, you see."
"Individuals, yeahS" Simon paused for a moment.
"Eric, no one can undo what was done. No one can
bring my little sister back from the grave. Not
Yad Vashem, not pages of testimony. No one.
Nothing." Again, he lapsed into silence.
Eric spoke again. "Uncle Simon," he said softly. "Hilda is looking for you."
Simon sat up straight. Did he hear him say,
"Hilda is looking for you?" Surely not. It
couldn't be. Was he getting old?
"She's living in Israel. In Ashdod. Uncle Simon,
Hilda's alive." He heard his nephew saying.
Could it be? Should he allow himself to be
tricked into this ruse? No. He didn't want to get
too excited. The disappointment would be too
intense. It wasn't possible. Hilda alive? After
all these years? It's beenSlet's seeSsixty five
years now. It couldn't be. All these thoughts
flashed through his mind, but he said only, "Who
told you?" and his voice was hoarse.
"David Schlik. He tracked me down. He started out
by looking for my father, Karol, but when he
discovered that he's no longer alive, he
contacted the chevra kadisha (burial society) who
gave him my phone number."
David Schlick, David SchlikSDid he know a David
Schlik? He turned the name over in his mind. No
memory of David Schlik came up.
"I don't know him," he said tersely. "Who is he? Does he know me?"
"Uncle Simon, David is Hilda's grandson. I spoke to Hilda's grandson."
Simon's throat went dry. All these years and
Hilda had been alive. He couldn't utter a word.20
Eric put his arm around his uncle. "G-d has many
messengers, Uncle. Apparently, Hilda's grandson
learned that his grandmother's maiden name was
Glasberg. He hit the internet, searching for
family members despite the fact that his
grandmother didn't believe there was any hope for
her family, because she had already looked for
them many years ago.
"You could imagine how shocked he was when the
name of his grandmother: Hilda Glasberg, appeared
on the Yad Vashem database of Shoah Victims'
Names, testifying to her death!"
Slowly the pieces in the puzzle started to become
clear. Hilda having arrived safely to Uzbekistan
waited eagerly for her parents to arrive.
Separation is never easy. Surrounded by chaos in
a foreign country and the cold reality of war,
Hilda had suffered greatly.
When the war was finally over, they were among
the surviving refugees who remained locked behind
the iron curtain that had descended on the Soviet
Union. In spite of, exhaustive searches, Hilda
was unable to cross the borders. As time passed,
Hilda accepted the fact that her entire family
had been killed in the Holocaust.
With no other choice, Hilda relegated her aching
loss into a tight corner of her heart, which she
locked and bolted. She couldn't live otherwise.
The pain was too intense. As a result, she never
spoke about her past with her children.
But G-d has His ways. In a miraculous chain of
events, that corner, dust y with age, was
transformed into indescribable joy.
Just before he died, her brother Karol decided to
submit a page of testimony to Yad Vashem. A
curious grandchild discovered her maiden name and
came across that aforementioned testimony.
Not much later, a very emotional brother and
sister were finally united, after 65 years of
separation!

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