“Imagine Hell. Now imagine being rescued from hell, and returning…
I can’t. I am trying very very hard, and I can’t. I am on a bus about to enter Auschwitz-Birkenau in the south of Poland, watching my grandfather as we slowly drive by the wooden-shelf bunks where he slept as a prisoner in the concentration camp for 3 years of his life, and I can’t even imagine. Can you?
We started in Warsaw, where my grandfather grew up. We traveled through the Polish countryside to end up where my grandfather ended up during the Holocaust, in Auschwitz. He often says he has two lives: one before the war, and one after the war. It was immensely intense to witness those two worlds overlapping here.
There is something profound about traveling back to the land where your family comes from and touching its soil. Poland in winter is not a particularly inviting place, but I nevertheless felt the warm pull of the land’s history. It was like there was something still lingering in the air, waiting for me to reach out and grab it. Perhaps it was my bloodline, the connection to the family I never knew, starting to materialize as my grandfather pointed out all of his memories.
It was only recently that my grandfather started talking about his early days in Poland and what he went through during the Holocaust. I have such profound respect for survivors like my grandfather who felt it was within their power to later shield their children from the pain and trauma of what they went through. We owe it to them to hear their story – when they are ready to tell it, and when we are ready to listen. My trip to Poland spurred conversations within my own family that we have never had before. Ask your grandparents about their stories; talk to your parents, your aunts and uncles. Tell your children your story. Do it honestly. The things that happen to us reverberate through the generations and in hearing about them, we can understand ourselves that much more. We all deserve to know where we come from. After my time in Poland, I know I do.
We all have survivors in our family. Their stories are our stories. When my grandfather is gone, his story will be my story. Even now, it is a part of my history. It always will be…”
– Avi Wisnia // @aviwisnia #mypolishwisnia
072/100 of #100DaysofConfessions Instagram Project