Memory is Our Home is a rich, living document, a thirty-year account that reveals a vibrant life of Eastern European, twentieth-century Jewish history and culture, now gone. Fascinating from the early paragraphs, rarely has a book been written that pencils so bleak a portrait of daily Jewish life during the interwar years in Poland, the Poland that was under Nazi’s murderess grip and the faith of Jews surviving throughout Russia and Uzbekistan during WWII. The shocking repatriation to the “vast graveyard” and Jewish life under communism that was to follow in postwar Poland.
Based on my mother’s diary, her writings about Warsaw Poland during the years following WWI, in the interwar period in Warsaw, and the six long years of WWII, and how she was able to survive in Soviet Russia and Uzbekistan. Interwoven with her journals are stories she told to me throughout my life, as well as my own recollections as my family made a new life in the shadows of the Holocaust in Communist Poland after the war and into the late 1960s. By retelling this story I try to shed light on how the Holocaust trauma is transmitted to the next generation, the price my family paid when we said good-bye to the old world and the challenges we faced in America.
For me, the 2nd G, I had no way of knowing but the seed for writing this book was planted in my childhood. What I remember most vividly after the war in Poland is how my mother always watched the door, always hopeful, never giving up that a loved one would enter, come back from the dead. Later, when I grasped the magnetite of the crimes against Jews, I questioned why my parents thought it was essential to stay in Poland. With time, I accepted how important it was for them to restore their roots where their ancestors had always lived. In the words of Elie Wiesel, “to forget the dead would be akin to killing them a second time.” My mother found courage and strength among the ashes of her family, she brought them back to life, daily. But twenty years after the war, Jews were targeted once again with an anti-Semitic campaign, sponsored by the communist government. In the years 1968-1969, Polish Jews disappeared from Poland.
My mother, left behind in Warsaw her entire extended family including five nieces and nephews, they all perished in the Ghetto or in Treblinka. “I often think back to how they were when I left Warsaw that November. Adek’s little girl Bluma was five years old in 1939. She was a precocious little girl who was always attached to her mother. Adored by her maternal grandmother, she was always dressed in the latest style. Bluma had big dark eyes and light hair that fell in loose curls on her shoulders. A shiny, white bow was always tied to her hair right in the middle of her head. She would put her small hand in mine and let me take her for our weekly walk. On those walks I told her about my favorite Maria Konopnicka fairytale but I never told her that Marysia was an orphan. Bluma was a sensitive child. I did not want to make her sad. Though we had almost lost him from illness, Sala’s son Piniek grew up to be a healthy five-year-old boy. An independent child, he reminded me so much of his father Moniek. We also had our weekly walks in the park. Piniek asked a thousand questions, and I was expected to have an answer for every one of them. Gutek took after his mother, always smiling and content. He had dark eyes and a dark head of curls. Anja’s son Pinkus was three when I left Warsaw. We were best friends. I got to spend the most time with him because of Anja’s dangerous second pregnancy. He loved for me to read to him at bedtime. When I thought he was asleep and closed the book, he would open his eyes and say, “one more story Ciocia, aunt Roma please.” I never refused. His little sister, also named Bluma, was only three months old when I said good-bye to my Anja. My final farewell was to my Adek. I handed over to him my most precious possession, a box filled with diplomas, a few of my favorite books and an album with photographs. I told him to take care of it. My parting words were, “I will see you in a few weeks.” I returned to Warsaw six years later. Home at last. I walked through the streets of my once beloved city. I was surrounded by nothing but rubble. Alone, overwhelmed, in a daze, I felt like I was drowning in a sea of pain and helplessness. I questioned my reason for living. Why had I fought so hard to stay alive? My family was gone. There was no one waiting for me. There were no neighborhoods, no streets, not even a single building I could recognize. Warsaw was gone. All was silent. I walked through the ruins, crying. We did not know what Hitler had done to our people. To discover now that they had all been murdered was more than I could grasp. I lost much of my sanity that day. I was twenty-seven and broken. I had lost everything. The war was over, but in my mind, the enemy had won.”
About the author
Suzanna Eibuszyc was born in Poland, after the war, where she lived until the late 1960s. Suzanna graduated from CCNY with a BA. At the department of Jewish studies is where she first met Professor Elie Wiesel. She received MA from UCLA, and was awarded a grant which allowed her to travel to Poland and Israel. Meeting professor and writer Elie Wiesel made her realize the importance of Holocaust survivors’ stories. In 2012, Suzanna Eibuszyc received a funding from the Hadassah–Brandeis Institute for her project “the Story of Roma Talasiewicz-Eibuszyc”. Her book, Memory Is Our Home (published by ibid-Verlag) brings to light the Jewish community in Warsaw after the first war, how Jewish refugees managed to survive the WWII throughout the vast Russian territories and the repatriation to Poland under the communist regime. How the Holocaust trauma is transmitted to the next generation and the price her family paid when they said good-bye to the old world and the challenges we faced in America.
Memory Is Our Home by Suzanna Eibuszyc, Book’s website.
(c) 2015 ibidem Press/ibidem-Verlag.
ISBN 978-3-8382-0712-4 (US paperback); ISBN 978-3-8382-0682-0 (EU paperback)
Reprinted with the kind permission of the author and her publisher.
“I insisted my mother write down her incredible accounts spanning some thirty years. It was after her death that I reconnected with Professor Wiesel; he more than anyone else gave me the courage to undertake the journey of writing this book. The ghosts of my childhood came rushing in and ultimately I addressed how growing up in the shadows of the Holocaust aftermath affected the 2nd G.” [Suzanna Eibuszyc]
December 2012 “Hadassah-Brandeis Institute is delighted to let you know that your project “the Story of Roma Talasiewicz-Eibuszyc” has been selected to receive funding from the Hadassah–Brandeis Institute. You should be proud that the review committee feels that your mother’s memoir will become an important source in the historical investigations of social history of Eastern European Jewish women and Eastern European Jewish family 1918 – 1968.”
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