Excerpts from my trip diary:
November 9, 2013
Sitting here at the Munich Airport, as I am about to fly home, my last thoughts are of how am I going to portray this story. Contemplating this as we drove our last several miles back to Poland from the Ukraine the day before, I was struck with feeling Mama’s pain as in the movie Field of Dreams, “relieve his pain“. Feeling her pain, how am I to relieve it? This does not seem possible, since the pain went to her grave with her. Is her pain to be relieved through me on a different level? I do feel her pain especially after seeing her land, her house, her town as it is now and remembering stories of what it was like when she lived there. I feel regret about her life as it could have been. I feel her pain over not having a normal young adulthood with family around. I feel her pain over not knowing what happened to her father and her mother. I feel her pain about not ever returning to her homeland for fear of retribution. The rational one may say that she did survive and had a loving family, with her children and grandchildren around her. She had a nice home and friends and lived an ok life. But that is not what I am talking about. It’s the emotional ties that one has for what the US Constitution protects, “Life Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness”. Every time I hear the National Anthem, feeling the goose bumps, the pride of country, all this overcomes me. This is what we as US citizens have and expect. Poland could not provide that for her and that was an intangible loss, a loss of identity. With that loss came a loss of town, a house, a normal life, worst of all the loss of a mother and father. All this happened by the time she was 24. It was sheer survival at first, and then a new start. Everything she went through affected her spirit, her will, her outlook on life.
This is what I want to capture when I tell our story, since I am the byproduct of her spirit and will to live. Having been to where she grew up, I find myself sensing her loss. Her town is in a foreign country that might as well be a third world nation. That part of her Poland is a foreign country full of people whose heritage is that of those who murdered her mother. Hearing the language spoken in Kosow and seeing the signs in that language, made me very sad.
Nonetheless, the visit had to happen for me to have a sense of what I am about to tackle, as with much of what interests me in history, the desire to be the fly on the wall. I want to know and feel what people felt, what they experienced and not just what was left to the historians to write about. Seeing all the photographs she kept which her extended family sent her in post-war years are priceless. There are many family photos from pre-war Kosow. It’s wonderful to see the serenity in her face and the faces of her loved ones, the innocence that was not yet shattered. I know I need to portray the optimistic survivor that she was; that sheer love of family that she never would compromise; the kindness she expressed to others.
This project will honor what my mother and father experienced and felt as it unfolds and develops.