A Library for Krakow

I belong to a Holocaust Survivors e-mail list that travels around the globe online helping Survivors find other Survivors.  More than six years ago I received an email about a young man who wanted to start a library in Kraków Poland and needed help filling the shelves with Jewish books.  Seems he was raised Christian to save his life.  Finding out as an adult that his biological parents were Jewish, he was determined to make this happen.

As much as I love my books, I’ve learned to share over the years and this seemed extremely important.   I boxed up a huge box of books that included my college freshman Children’s Literature anthology (that was 30 years old) and my Bat Mitzvah prayer book (which was even older).  Books are one of my great loves, so there were many books that had been on my shelves for many years.

It was important I told myself and left for the Post Office, almost leaving when they asked me to fill out a huge amount of paperwork for Custom’s reasons.  Never heard anything, assumed my good deed was in a black hole somewhere at the bottom of the Atlantic.

While casually searching Google the other night for the three blogs I’ve created, to see what is being sent out to the universe (by me), I came upon this website in Poland which had my name attached.  Being unbelievably curious and not knowing Polish, I used Google translator.

Copy, paste, click, read.    Copy, paste, click, read.  I had no idea what happened to my book box until now.  On Google.com it says “darczyncy” and my name.  The Rabbi Remuh Jewish Library was established in June 2005 and it is the only Jewish Library in Krakow open to everyone. czulent_salon_1

I am listed as a donor.  Oh my God was all I could pray through all the tears.  What makes this so special is my Dad Berek Nathan was born in Warsaw.  His entire family – brothers, sisters, parents, aunts, uncles died in the Holocaust.   He was the only living survivor.  Saving himself by running to the forest while the Nazis were kicking his brother to death on the streets of Poland.  He was 15.  Berek Nathan died August 2005 at age 87.  He was my Hero.  At least some of his books are back in Poland at a Jewish Library where they always belonged.

 

 All rights reserved.  ©2009 by Sara Fryd  

 

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A Little Wisdom

double rainbow

My wisdom comes in short bursts

Of learning out loud

And in silent contemplation.

A sprinter I am

A marathon runner not so much.

Learned to hear with my heart

To feel with my navel

To listen with my eyes

To let my soul nourish me.

My very own soul

With its own character is enough

When others are unavailable

Are involved in their own lives.

I learned to demand less

To request more

Of myself, not of them.

Learned a little blue Agave syrup

Goes a long way to sweeten the pot

That has always been sweet

If only I had noticed along the way

Those rainbows will always have colors

That I can devour for breakfast.

All rights reserved.  ©2010 by Sara Fryd

A Painter’s Daughter

blue ford

Before I knew the words to describe a rainbow,

I could mix the colors of heaven,

of mountains; of Arizona in the spring.

Each morning in darkness before the molten Phoenix sun

would crest the parched desert,

Papa would sneak out the door

quiet as a whisper

to paint this house or that castle.

Peeking…

With one eye around the blinds covering the window

I heard more than I saw.

Sounds my Papa made loading his royal blue

1948 Ford pick-up [truck] with ladders and brushes,

turpentine, putty, tarps and cans.

Oh, those magical cans of paint

that could change the heart of a room

from sullen to sunlight

from dreary to delicious.

Some knights ride into a little girl’s heart

on horseback or steed

large, tall, strong with white mane flowing.

My knight drove a short, wide blue ‘48 pick-up

with a three-speed stick shift on the column

and white wall tires;

pulling a bed filled with cans of colors streaming

for all the rainbows that surprised us after a desert storm.

For all the saguaros, yuccas, Joshua trees in need of renewal.

Mostly though…

for one little girl

who wanted her room the blue of the sky

after angels washed it with an August storm.

America

San Francisco by Sara Fryd

He spits in his rag, washes my car window

A sign of the times

What sign is that, I ask myself?

That America is in trouble?

That our veterans have no place to live?

That a roof over one’s head is not a necessity

For a Marine?

Who fought for our security and more?  Who now

Sleeps on the ground next to his wheel chair.

Since he has no other place to sleep

Except the grass beneath his sleeping bag.

Roll up a $20 bill and gently place it in his palm

His fingers close around it.

His eyes remain closed, his breathing slows.

I turn my eyes to the cerulean sky recalling

I have no job, nor means of support…

Still…

I have $20, a roof over my head, food in my fridge

And there but for the grace of God…

Go I…

 

All rights reserved.  ©2009 by Sara Fryd

Approval

She works too hard for approvalapproval

My friend

Tap dancing, tap dancing

For all who enter

Round and round

Faster and faster

For some who are worthy

Those who are not

The quest for approval

All that attention

All that energy

All that time

Or maybe not

Tap shoes on, tap shoes off

Left outside the front door

Next to the sign

No more – Ø

 

All rights reserved.  ©2009 by Sara Fryd

Before Breakfast

14I need to write…

a poem

early…

Before breakfast.

Before caffeine dilutes

My train of thought.

Before dreams are lost

And plans for the day

Muddle my mind,

With stuff

Of yesterdays

Of tomorrows

Of days left behind

And gifts of days lingering

…to become

As yet, unwrapped.

I write…

as my heart

Fills with pale whispered light

Because sunlight

Eludes my soul…

before dawn.

I dream…

As charcoal skies crack open

pouring water from a spout

of a cold pitcher

shiny, stainless.

So I dream…

And write

When heavens are bleak

With ashen clouds

And angels cry.

I write…

A poem at dawn,

early

Before breakfast…

What a way to breathe in

a new dawn

With hope, with a smile

With my heart full of joy.

All rights reserved.  ©2010 by Sara Fryd

 

Benny

Benny Newspaper

Munich was always cold, especially in 1946.  We lived in a “lager” – an American Displaced Person’s Camp.  A four-story building with large rooms that housed multiple individuals and families – 60 or 70 people to a room; each group divided by hanging dark khaki green Army blankets.  Our lack of privacy, with Army folding cots for beds, is where I spent my formative years.  The Jews’ Holocaust was over.  America had won WWII.  Mine was just beginning.

On top of the mountain near the building, the train ran by every night.  Even with my eyes closed covered by the dark olive blanket; I could always hear the whistle.  Every time I heard the sound, I was afraid – afraid that it would come and take my Papa away.  I’d hear them whispering in Yiddish at night when they thought I was sleeping.  My American Army cot was only inches away.

By current standards, Papa was small in stature, standing only 5’2” tall.  Telly Savalas’ twin brother and only half his height.  Though he had all the strength and charm of Kojak.  The highest safest place I’ve ever known were his shoulders when I was three and Simchat Torah was taking place autumn of 1948.  Outside we walked to a makeshift synagogue down rolling green hills.  He held my little legs tight just above my shoes and socks.  I felt so warm, loved, and very tall.  In my right hand was a white Israeli flag with blue stripes, a blue Star of David, and a little red apple on top of the wooden pole.  My left hand clung to his ear and held on to his baldhead for dear life.  All together we were over seven feet tall my papa, the flag, and me.

By then the Allies had won the War and Jewish children could walk the icy blood drenched soil of Germany without being carted off in trucks like strays picked up by dog catchers.

By the time I was four, I had my own rabbinical tutor, an old white-haired bearded Orthodox rabbi who taught me Hebrew.  The Women’s Liberation Movement wouldn’t come into existence for another twenty years, though it mattered not to my Papa that I was only a girl.  He cared only that I love the process of learning, of reading the ancient text.  He wanted to make sure that I learned the alphabet of my dead grandparents (who disappeared with a heartbeat when a German bomb exploded their building in the Warsaw Ghetto).  He made sure he gave me the gift of going to school; something he dreamed of but never had the chance.

Papa was an expert in the “black market” and came down the hill of our camp in a pale tan Mercedes Benz sedan with sunroof and matching leather seats.  We never did find out how he “bought it.”  He pulled up along side the building with the sunroof open and me in the back seat, while my other threw wrapped candy from the window above.  I can close my eyes and still hear the laughter.

With all the horrors he experienced, I remember him smiling and joyous, always full of stories and singing.  Always singing to me:  “Avf daem pripichok brent a firerl.  In de shteeb is heiz.  Un de Rebbe layrent kliene kinderleck daem aleph baze…”  – “On the hearth there burns a little fire.  In the house it’s warm.  And the Rabbi teaches little children their ABCs…”   

He told wondrous stories of Sholem Aleichem, the Kabbalah, ghosts and goblins, never about the horrors he had seen in the war.  Those he kept inside.  And they tormented him always.  Some of the happiest memories I have are a devastated, freezing landscape, horrible brushes with illness and death, and a Papa singing away the pain.  He saved my life over and over again.

Memories of being put on a train, then on trucks, having socks put in my mouth so the soldiers wouldn’t hear a baby’s cries as we crossed the border crossings, knowing my baby brother would never make it home from the Munich hospital, hearing muffled cries all night, and sleeping next to men and women having sex in the next cot so they could prove they existed.  All of that he washed away with his lullabies, all of that and the black numbers etched on the arms of his friends.

Of all the things I’ve been able to achieve since landing in New Orleans in 1951, the one thing I can’t seem to do is return to him the gifts he gave me.  He’s closing in on eighty and lives in a tiny two-room apartment with newspapers in stacks three feet high from the floor and a loaded gun under his mattress.  He hoards his food, his “stuff” and won’t go to doctors (whom he thinks are still trying to kill him).  He hangs up the phone every time one of us calls.  And he refuses to open the door when any of his four children come to see him.

So we all stopped calling and coming by to see the Papa who seems to have abandoned his children.  Because we wanted to spare him, but mostly ourselves the pain of rejection.  We send the traditional cards and often a present.  The silence is devastating and the moat keeps getting wider.  He makes up stories about who did what to whom and when.  We hear about them from acquaintances who run into him at the grocery store.  He keeps the hurts close, wrapping the stories around him like a warm blanket to keep him safe from the children who love him.

As if feelings were bullets, he needs to wear a bulletproof vest to keep him safe from the children who remind him of the ones he buried half a world away in Uzbekistan and Germany.  Safe from the little girl who wanted desperately to sing away the pain.  Who now writes away his pain instead.

For those people who question whether the Holocaust ever happened, I am proof that there is not one, but two Holocausts that always take place.  The one that slaughters human beings like cattle and with less compassion; and a second Holocaust each person who survives carries with them every day of their lives.  Victims of wars they do not create.  Nevertheless, they wake up every day reliving those horrors, then shutting the door on love and kindness, because to risk caring is too great a pain.

Now and then, though I rarely hear a train whistle at night these days, whenever I do the three-year-old inside me still says a little prayer, “ Please dear God, don’t let them come and take my Papa away.”

 

All rights reserved.  ©2009 by Sara Fryd

*I wrote this in 1994 after hearing an evening newscast about the Holocaust deniers.  It was published in a local newspaper in Albuquerque, NM in 1995.  My Papa died alone a few days before his 88th birthday in 2005.  I read this at his funeral.  Little did I know in 1994, that I was writing his eulogy.