Last year I did a talk in my home town on Jewish genealogy for a Jewish organization. Afterwards I had a casual conversation with the director about the difficulty of finding Holocaust speakers as survivors dwindle. Half facetiously I remarked, "You should get my friend Dora". Now Dora lives in the Twin Cities, is in her 90s and is legally blind so travel to downstate Illinois wasn't exactly feasible. Except...
I had known Dora for only six months when we went to Poland together. Not exactly what most would expect with a new and rather senior friend. Dora is from Radom, Poland as was my grandfather. In 2011 we traveled there together where I exhibited my artwork on the former Jewish community of Radom. Dora exhibited photos from before the war and the time of the ghetto, photos that had been hidden in the shoes of family members during the camps.
Now Dora tells me that I make things happen and I seem to, often much to my own surprise. Partially that is because Dora is a willing accomplice. She says yes when most would say no and in combination we do seem to find ourselves in unexpected places. And so I asked if she might be interested and she said,"Maybe".
Logistics were the obstacle to resolve. The limitation of impaired sight was our biggest challenge, but I love to solve puzzles so I began to assemble these pieces and see how they might fit. Dora has a grandson in Chicago and I fly in to Illinois regularly to visit my mother. Dora just published her father's memoir of his 2 1/2 years in Auschwitz so was speaking more actively about the book. A flight to her grandson who in turn drove her downstate and an early morning flight back with me took care of the logistics. I acted as her eyes in booking flights and coordinating information. We took advantage of the presence of her grandson to have him interview her at the Yom HaShoah and the result was quite magical. Their humor and enjoyment of each other were apparent and spoke to the involvement of the next generation in carrying the stories forward.
I was invited to share my artwork on the Jewish community of Radom, A Hole in Time, which felt very appropriate when lit by the light of memorial candles, commemorating that lost community in which both Dora and I share roots. In an odd way this work has traveled full circle, from the Minnesota town where I live to the Polish town where my grandfather came from and now back to the Illinois town in which I grew up.
On the plane, still not fully awake we began to plan our next venture, another Yom HaShoah talk next week in my community. This time I will interview Dora as we partner yet once again.