Three Sisters


Photo by Pauline Schwarcz

Some feel they must travel abroad to see historical landmarks and picture-postcard views. I have found both relatively close to home. A few weeks ago, I spent six days in the Blue Mountains, New South Wales, with my sister, daughter, and grandchildren. Each day we went to a different part of the region to bushwalk and sightsee; each day the scenery was more and more spectacular. Twice we went to see The Three Sisters, the iconic rock formation hewn by the elements over time and steeped in First Nations mythology. But as I gazed at the three magnificent rocks bound together at their base, I couldn’t help thinking of my three aunties, three sisters that were an important part of my life.

My father’s z”l three older sisters, Vera z”l, Livia z”l and Olga z”l, were the three oldest of seven children. They were born just over a year apart. Close in age, but very different in nature, they remained devoted to each other for the rest of their lives.

By the time the Nazis were deporting the Jews of Kosice, Hungary (now Slovakia) in May 1944, the three sisters were young women in their early twenties. Vera was away from home, visiting her maternal grandmother and family in another town, so she was deported with them on another train. At some point of the respective train journeys from hell to the gates of hell, the two trains passed each other. For a fleeting moment Vera and her mother, my grandmother z”l, spotted each other through the slits for windows of the cattle cars. Vera never saw her again.

Somehow the three sisters found each other in Auschwitz, and remained together there, Living and working on starvation rations. By the time they were forced out of the camp in early ’45 and went on the death march, Livia was so weak that her two sisters, one on each side, virtually dragged her along with them. Together they survived.

Olga was the first of the family to come out to Australia, and she arranged papers for her two sisters and their new families, my grandfather z”l and my father. The family was reunited in Melbourne and the sisters and brother made a good life for themselves here with their spouses and children. Grandchildren and great-grandchildren were born here and abroad. Our family was depleted during the Holocaust, but now it is flourishing B”H.

Vera was the matriarch of the family and was consulted on a range of matters. Olga went to live in London for the last few years of her life to be with her son and his family. The three sisters spent most of their lives in Melbourne, from the late 1940s onwards, and spoke and saw each other regularly. My mother was their sister-in-law, but over time she became like a fourth sister. The three sisters lived into their nineties; Livia passed away a few months before her hundredth birthday last year.

On our Tuesday at the Blue Mountains, it rained all morning. When the rain stopped in the afternoon, we went to Echo Point to take a closer look at The Three Sisters. The massive rock formations were surrounded by clouds and shrouded in mist as if they were in the heavens. I’m sure my three aunties are somewhere in Gan Eden and catching up with each other every day.

About the Author
Pauline Schwarcz is a freelance writer with a background in genealogy. Formerly a health professional, she enjoys writing about family history and her reflections on life. Pauline was born and lives in Melbourne and is the daughter of a Holocaust survivor.
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