…at the borders of humanity

I hid under the ground at the borders of mercy and unknown.
The emptiness silently cried out its rage.
The days dropped down their fears
For the ones who were unalike shaped in beliefs.
The prejudices dressed their black robes,
Paving with blood the whole nights streets.
Chanting the hate songs, its soldiers brought their hell on earth. 

I hid my childhood under the ground at the borders of kindness
Where dolls played chess and bridges, reading for me the others’ stories
Left behind of an evolved planet lost for now
Under the bloodshed of genocide. 
The hell’s soldiers, aiming to a right world, squeezed the light to adapt
To their hatred refrains ’till covered the righteous with death’s wings.

The angels were murdered in the town’s squares
For brightening the arms of love,
Yet their prayers touched the skies
‘Till the archangel’s army taught us
How life is spelling in the humankind language. 

I hid my memories in a hide-and-seek game
Where dolls are still alive through my space,
Colouring the hope at the sake of humanity
Where I religiously accept each of our shapes, 
Hiding the fears, seeking the peace at the core of love. 

In February 2021 I had the great privilege to listen to the life’s stories of two survivors of Holocaust, Hedi Argent and Simon Winston.

Listening to Hedi, I heard the little child enclosed in her memories, the one who met the horrible side of the world since she was truly little. Despite being a child, Hedi could assist to the discussions of the adults and from their fears and concerns, she understood on the way, the life threatening of the situation. Being still a kid, longing for a beautiful childhood, amongst her family and friends, Hedi faced the anti-Semitic rules from her class school ‘till the public social life. Hedi proved that her maturity came incredibly early to care her perception of life. It was not only the way of the headmistress acted against her, but the facts that kids were rigorously asked to avoid Jews children. It was then a heart-breaking silence in her words. There was a strong anti-Semitic message on the education standards at that time, and this was terrible wrong as we would expect from a highly educated headteacher to act justly, open minded. A school is meant to be an ethical, principled, righteous plant. Despite the xenophobia prejudices Hedi had to face in the society, she mentioned the way she was brought up regarding other people beliefs and might expect everyone to understand this way the facts: “We are not religious. But I am religiously taught never to doubt what other people believe.”

Still, as Hedi explained, there were people who would not follow the bigotry rules imposed by the Nazis, yet there was a limit where they could not fight so long for their Jews friends. She kindly remembers her neighbours, a native Christian Austrian family in whom house she spend cosy and lovely time, feeling the bright side of what humanity means. As well, Fräulein, Hedi’s father’s secretary, to whom she got extremely attached. These people would stick forever in Hedi’s memories as something to balance the other dark side of her life’s story.

There were few points that sparked my mind while listening to Hedi’s story.

Her parents’ principles, morals that enlightened the education of the little child who had to witness such horrific times, getting the courage to stand firm.  Then an invisible world seemed to interfere in their life, as some sort of “miracles” happened. The man who saved her father’s life, by delaying the prison liberation, Dr Richter who took Hedi to an hospital where Jews were not allowed. All these speak about humanity’s right path, about the bravery of the goodness, the way one could save another’s one life acting for the sake of humankind, compassion, and kindness. All these stand up for the saying that “He who saves one life saves the world entire.” These people “saved” the meaning of humanity, by edifying its honourable, virtuous side. And Hedi added another one to the story, telling us about the porter in the Victoria Station who gave them a shining coin, welcoming them to the UK. They were in a very fragile, poor state, yet they saved the coin, not as its financial value, but as a humanity message. For sure, that man “saved” as well the gracefully side of kindness.

„We survived the Holocaust”, said Simon, „but we lost nearly all our relatives and friends. We lost our health, our sanity and our dignity – and I lost my childhood.

Simon Winston was only one year old when the war started, so his early memories are blurred by the life threatening and antisemitic rules from that time. Most of his war perspectives were built with the help of his parents testimonies. Yet, Simon could pick some memories up and while listening to them, some sort of heartbreaking glimpse strikes my feelings.

„On August 1941, a Jewish committee was formed, called the Judenraat. Although its members tried to help ease the pain and poor conditions of their fellow Jews, they were in fact selected and supervised by the Nazis, thus concealing the real intent: to subjugate and kill off all the Jews as smoothly as possible.” In a chameleon world, where the trust was brutally faded away, hiding was one of the survival tools, the primary and essential one. Miracles had happened, as Simon stated, because he is here now, telling his story.

There is no such history with H capital letter. Each of us enclose in the time’s capsule his own life’s story, feelings perceptions, personal understanding towards the life’s events. There are different perspectives, different paths, cultures and beliefs, and listening to the survivors’ stories I understand the facts that in general lines, the morality, the values, the goodness stands always up in the same manner, the humanity at its core has the same emotions, treasures and ideas, just the nuances are colored otherwise depending on the marks of their age.

The experience of meeting the survivors and learnt from their testimonies brought up the awareness of good and right, the power of the human spirit, the facades of the courage yet the fragility of humanity and the way that prejudices could reach dangerous consequences; learning to recognize the signs of prejudices, abuses, ethnic clearance so then we could speak out in a true manner not letting the hate to overcome; understanding that the Love at its essence has nothing to do with judgements and criticism, but with kindness, acceptance, compassion, greatness.  

Simona Prilogan

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