Editor's Memo: October 2011

My Parents, Holocaust Survivors



Inever met any of my grandparents. Nor did I meet eight of my mother’s nine siblings, nor four of my father’s five siblings. I didn’t meet their many, many cousins either. You see, my parents are Holocaust survivors.

I don’t remember when my parents began to tell my sister, Itta Brana (she’s named after our two grandmothers) and me (I’m named after my mom’s paternal grandma) about their Holocaust experience, But, the older they get, the more and more it seems they want—need?—to tell their story. Nineteen years ago, my parents, my husband, my kids, and I even visited their shtetl, Apsche, then in Czechoslovakia, today in Ukraine. We saw the small, wooden house my father grew up in, the house he “sold” after Auschwitz, Dachau, Warsaw, and Mühldorf, for a pair of boots. We also saw Apsche’s small Jewish cemetery, overgrown with weeds, because most of Apsche’s Jews had been killed or, like my parents, chose never to return.

As we walked through the run-down streets of Apsche and saw its many poor non-Jewish inhabitants, I felt—this may surprise you; it certainly did me—proud, very proud.  You see, despite experiencing, in the most personal ways possible this terrible, terrible crime, my parents went on to build lives filled with laughter, adventure, travel, work, music (the Barry Sisters, Sinatra, Nat King Cole, and Steve Lawrence and Edie Gormet were favorites), and fun. It also helped that we arrived in Apsche in a brand new Volvo, all well-dressed, and on our way to the Barcelona Olympics, with planned stops in Hungary, Austria, Italy, and France. And, while the Holocaust left its scars—my mom suffered with debilitating bouts of survivor’s guilt; my father still has nightmares—I’m proud that my parents never became bitter. Indeed, one of the many life lessons my father says the Holocaust taught him was “never to hate.”

For profiles, of Westchester’s Holocaust Survivors, turn to page 74.

Photojournalist Leslie Long

Boy have we been putting photojournalist Leslie Long  to work. In August, we featured her photo essay on barns, entitled “An Old-Fashioned Barn-Raising.” She has also photographed  stone walls, old storefronts, and waterfronts for us. For this issue, she took her camera and visited old, old graveyards. She found the assignment to be, she says, an “endlessly fascinating” subject.

“Before doing this photo essay, I’d spotted a few small burial grounds near where I live in Larchmont, but I had never taken the time to explore them. Once I stepped inside those and many others, I found them to be full of stories, both real and imagined. The names, inscriptions, dates, and carvings all offered clues to the lives they represented. There was so much to discover. Once I started looking, I was surprised to find graveyards just about everywhere, each one with its own unique character. In fact, the other day while photographing a farm in Ossining for an upcoming photo essay, I noticed a small group of headstones from the 1700s at the head of the farm’s driveway right across from the mailbox!” Her “Grave Matters” photo essay begins on page 66.