What makes a survivor? What makes a person able to say that they were able to successfully escape an event that places them in great danger? Today, I met a survivor!
Hilana Peabody was a young girl outside of Krakow, Poland. She heard stories of Jews being forced to clean sidewalks. She was subjected to the harsh realities of a culture that’s wanted to see her and the people of her community suffer. Yet, she was unaware of the reality around her because her mother protected her from seeing such abuses.
She told of a story of when 800 members of her community were sent away to go work. People waited to see their friends and relatives return…yet, not one returned on the train. It wasn’t until later that night when one person got off a train…he survived. He survived a mass killing of 800 people…the people of Hilana’s community.
Hilana’s mother was concerned for Hilana’s safety, so her mother sent her away to another town. She was shuffled around. They asked a priest to provide them papers so that they could be seen as Catholic. She was afraid that she was going to die. Her mother was confronted by a soldier and her mother begged and pleaded for him to let her and her children live. The soldier took what they had, but did let them go. She survived!
These are stories that we need to protect. These are stories that need to be heard. We can see pictures and read textbooks, but nothing is more powerful than the words of a person who was there when it happened…the words of a survivor!
But sadly, not all survived. Some were turned in by their neighbors. The community in which they lived abandoned them. The Jews of the community had nowhere to turn. Today, one image/artifact struck me. Today I saw bullets that were removed from a mass grave in Lithuania. These bullets took the lives of children, women, and men all because of what people thought they were.
Looking at the bullets was like looking at the mass grave. It was like looking at the community. It was like looking within yourself. What bullets do we use today to attack others? How do we stop these bullets? We care for each other. We accept differences with eagerness to learn more. We be the light for others. We love.
“Please, please, please work hard. You are in charge now. Make sure this world is good for my children’s grandchildren.”-Hilana Peabody