November 11, 2009

We are Still Here

(Image below: stills from an animation I created with inspiration from my grandpa's experiences during the Holocaust)

I really would have preferred to kick this blog off with something fun and lighthearted, but I can't ignore what's at the forefront of my thoughts...  last week I returned from ten days in Poland. My brother is a documentary filmmaker and has undertaken a very personal and emotional story. Both of our paternal grandparents are Holocaust survivors born in Poland. They are the only surviving members of their respective families. They met and married after the war in a German displaced persons camp. My father was born there. Shortly afterwards they came to the United States. To this day, they have never returned to their homes in Poland.

During this trip, my parents, brother, and I became the first members of our family to return to Poland, the homeland of our ancestors for generations. We visited my grandparents' hometowns and several places where they were during the war, including the Warsaw Ghetto and two slave labor factories (one of which is currently abandoned while the other is a totally renovated facility owned by a US company).

Since I've returned back home to New York people keep asking me how my trip was, but a casual "it was great!" seems really inappropriate. On the flight back, I asked my mom and brother how they would respond to this inevitable question and neither one came up with an answer. A week later I think I've finally got my answer down pat. "It was intense, but successful."

We captured what we set out to capture; the train platform in Sedziszow, my grandpa's hometown, from where his father, mother, and sister were transported directly to Belzec, an extermination camp, the cemetery where my grandpa buried his brother, who died from disease in a forced labor factory, the ammunition factory where my grandma spent six months before being transported to Bergen-Belson.

We went back to these places with a somber mood, but with a sense of pride. My grandparents survived, and we are still here. With each generation, my family is growing again. I know my brother (who is endlessly motivated) will make a beautiful film that will live in our family forever. Thank you, Evan, for making this all happen.


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