Friday, November 6, 2009

Full circle

A la Oprah of course, I come to you with a "full circle moment" for this morning. Well, morning where I am anyway.

Though I should be doing my German homework, some other sort of cosmosis is willing me to write instead.

One of the subplots of my life is my journey back to Poland, both literally and figuratively. My family background includes grandparents who survived the Holocaust and a mother who grew up in post WWII Communist Poland who later immigrated to the US essentially so that I could have a better life than she.

Until two weeks ago I hadn't visited Poland since I was a 10 year old girl and the country was Communist. Next week marks the 20 years end of the Berlin Wall. 

My German teacher is from Berlin and spent the many years of his young life separated from his grandparents who remained in East Berlin. Yesterday he told the touching story of how he, is parents and sister once a year would go to the wall on a predetermined date to see their grandparents. 

I weep as I write this.

They would go to where the tourists would visit the Berlin wall, climb up the stairs to the top where everyone could look over into East Berlin. Their grandparents would be waiting on the other side, they would wait far away from the wall so that the police didn't see them.

On the western side, he and his family would look with binoculars down at their grandparents. The grandparents would remain very still, arms not waving so as not to attract the attention of police. Their grandparents could only see them as tiny people at a distance.

Then, after a few minutes of looking at each other, his parents would take out a white handkerchief, wave it up and down a number of times and back on the eastern side, his grandparents would make a quick, small wave, quickly turn around and run off so that they police would not be alarmed. 

They would do this one a year for most of his young life.

I will hear more of his stories on Monday, the actual anniversary. And today, I am working with a translator to have documents translated so that I can reclaim my Polish citizenship. In December I will go to Dachau where my grandparents were. 

The scourge of war and genocide and hate is more deeply impressed upon me now more than ever as all this bit and pieces, all of these stories, so many years after the end of WWII surround me. I know the trials and tribulations of so many have been documented in regard to what happened here in Europe. I know that the story of my family is terrifically common. It is so mundanely part of the human experience in some ways. But, I will always find hate and war and the evil humans can inflict upon one another profoundly inhumane.

But as wrong, horrible and traumatic as these things are, the world keeps on turning. And people keep moving. 

This week my American husband, working for a German company went to work with a Polish client in Warsaw. All the while my Polish mother was in the United States.

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