As an inquisitive child, I remember asking my grandparents about their lives – what it was like when they were young, particularly before they emigrated from Ukraine/Poland to the US. All were Jews who fled ever-present danger; unlike rules for game animals, you see, it was always ‘open season’ on Jews back then (is it my imagination, or is that happening again?). My paternal grandmother, Lara, came here at a very young age with no memories of the old country. What she did have – and did not reveal until very near the end of her life – was the knowledge that her seven older brothers all had been murdered by Cossacks around the turn of the 20th century. As history unfolded, this could be classified as merely a warm-up for Babi Yar and who knows how many other unrecorded similar atrocities..
My paternal grandfather, Abraham (né Avram) told me how, as a child, he used to help his father deliver grain in burlap sacks to Kiev on a horse-drawn cart. Part of the payment they received for their farm produce consisted of the emptied burlap sacks in which grain had been delivered – from which his mother made clothing. I, from the comfort of America in the 1950’s, remember thinking how different my grandfather’s childhood world was from the one he presently inhabited (a nice apartment in Newark, New Jersey) as he told me this story. I remember imagining that he must have had to make remarkable adjustments to life which had changed so radically (even though much for the better in most ways). This insight into the course of my grandfather’s life was unusual for me, given what I now realize about my young self. It turned out to be a harbinger of the “adjustments” that were in store for me in the course of my own life…... [Read More]