A Letter To My Children On Their Trip to Poland

To my Dearest Daniel and Goldie,

I am writing one letter for the both of you bc what I have to tell you, my thoughts and my feelings about this upcoming Poland trip are the same for both of you.

I actually cannot believe that you are already going on your Poland trip. The moment seems to have come so fast. I remember very clearly going on my Poland trip my year in Israel, with daddy on his trip at the same time. That trip changed my life. It changed how I thought about being Jewish, it changed my feelings about our history and our future. It changed-strengthened I should say, my feelings about Israel, our homeland. Although my Zionistic feelings have always been strong going to Poland multiplied my Zionistic fervor by about a million. It changed my feelings about who I am , where I came from and where we are going. It was a life changing, priceless trip.

The other day when we went to the shiva house for little Hallel Yaffa H”YD her mother told us in a relatively detailed way how she was murdered. Specifics about the stabbing. And at first I wanted to cover my ears and not listen to the horrific details bc I didn’t want to have the image in my head, I did not want to know the horror. But then I thought that if Hallel’s mother has to know the details then I too have to know the details. We all have to know the details bc she must not suffer alone. We all have to share in her suffering. By sharing in her suffering maybe somewhere, somehow we can change something, or learn something. Even if it is just to be a more compassionate person. Well this is how I feel about Poland. Some people actually think we should not go to Poland. We should not bring tourism and economy there. But I think that the benefits of witnessing our history far outweigh the negatives of bringing money into Poland. If every survivor has to live every moment of his life with the images of the atrocities he experienced and witnessed burned into his brain then we too MUST try to feel at least a small part of what happened to our people.

I just saw an interview with Elie Weisel on Oprah. She had asked him about his sister. He told Oprah that he could not talk about her bc he said that he would cry if he did. This was 70 years later and he could not talk about it. 70 years! The pain in his heart was as fresh as if it was yesterday. Going to Poland will enable you to share in this suffering.

When you get home we will talk to you about your trip-we can compare what Daddy and I saw and what you saw, we can compare journals and feelings and emotions. I won’t tell you my experiences yet bc I want you to experience your own. But what I will tell you was that after my trip to Poland I was lucky enough to spend a few more weeks in Israel before finishing up my year and heading back to Chicago. During that time I racked my brain trying to find a gift to bring home to Saba and Savta to thank them for giving me the most profound year of my life. I could not think of anything to buy them. But then I realized I had the perfect gift. I had picked up some dirt from the ground at Auschwitz and put it in a baggy. I took that dirt and bought a little painted box to put it in. Then I bought a second little box and went up to Har Herzl with a pad of paper, the two boxes and time to think. I found a quiet place just to sit and with my fingers I dug a little bit of dirt from the grounds at Har Herzl and I put that in the second box. Then I wrote my letter to Saba and Savta thanking them for sending me to spend a year here learning and then to Poland-where I saw the deep, deep hole that the Jewish people almost got completely lost in. Where we saw the worst of humanity, the most cruel and vicious things that one group of people could do to another-and simply bc we are Jews. The dirt I brought back from Auschwitz was holy dirt-dirt from the place were so many precious souls were brutally murdered. A little tangible piece of the horrors we suffered in the holocaust.

And then I wrote about the dirt from Har Herzl. The dirt from our holy, beloved, beautiful homeland. And not just any dirt but dirt taken from the cemetery where our soldiers, who had died fighting for our little piece of land, were laid to rest. This dirt too is holy. But this dirt is different. This dirt is OUR dirt. We fought for this dirt with our own army, are own weapons, and our blood. This dirt is proud and strong and victorious dirt. This dirt is the dirt of life. I felt like I could not have given them a more appropriate present bc I felt these two contrasts so strongly.

And now, all these years later, having made Aliyah, and having brought you kids to grow up here as Israelis, fulfilling the dream of every one of our ancestors who were murdered or tortured at the hands of Nazi’s – no words describe how it feels to see you, my kids-living and growing and thriving in this land of ours.

And now you will go, you will bear witness to the atrocities done to our people, your hearts will swell as room is made for the millions of new souls who have become a part of your being, and then you will come home, to ישראל ארץ, and you will get off that plane and step your feet onto this holy ground of ours and you will sing and you will dance and you will shine in all your beautiful Israeli-ness and I will feel that Saba and Savta’s present to me when I was 19 years old has truly come to fruition.

We Love you so much. May you go safely and return safely.

Am Yisrael Chai.

Love,

Mommy and Daddy

About the Author
Chani Turk made aliyah with her family in 2004. They have been living in Modiin ever since.
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