As I research my grandparents’ escape from the Nazis, I am overwhelmed that their four year long journey succeeded. It is 2062 miles from the prison where they were held in Eastern Poland to Tashkent, Kazakhstan to which Russia exiled them. Both the Russian and the German armies were fighting in the area. My grandparents and three younger people whom they met in prison were traversing Russian territory which was unfamiliar. No one spoke Russian; four were Jewish and the other a Roman Catholic. Because Russia overran Eastern Poland in August, 1939, they were set “free” to walk across Europe.
As a child I only heard the words, their profound meaning of course escaped me. Now as I study the World Atlas and Encyclopedia and the Wikipedia timeline of the Second World War, the enormity of their travails shocks me differently. They actually reached Tashkent and spent the last two years of the war there and were able to come to the United States two years after the war ended.
I have always looked up to my grandparents as heroes; they were my mentors and my ardent admirers, too. I learned their language and they learned mine. But still, the generation gap and the reticence of Holocaust survivors to discuss the horrors they saw and overcame during the Nazi time, contributed to my limited understanding of just what they had to endure for such a long time.
Whenever life challenges me and it seems as if I will not be able to stretch myself to garner the inner resouces to tackle the problem, I think of their tenacity and I persevere. I am writing this story now so my children and grandchildren as well as my grandparents' extended families and their descendants will know where we come from and the strength and resilience shown by their forebears. I will share it with you as I proceed because strength and courage in a crisis situation can be a vital lesson for us all, whatever we have to face.