A Survivor's Solioquy: A Short Story

By Ester Katz Silvers

When the Americans liberated my camp I made a resolution. All the bad would stay in the past. I had a future to build and it was going to be a good one. It was not so easy, though.
By the end of 1946 I came to the hard realization that I was the only one left of all my family. I didn’t let it devastate me, though and then in the DP camp I met my husband. Manny shared my determination to forget the darkness. We stayed in the camp until we finally got passage on a ship to Palestine. It wasn’t one of the legal ships and to say conditions were hard would be an understatement.  It didn’t matter what the conditions were, though, we were stopped by the British and shipped to Cyprus.
Once again I was in a camp with barbed wire. This time I was not alone. I had Manny, and I was pregnant. We had been in Cyprus three months when I gave birth to a beautiful baby boy. I wanted to name him for my father but he did not live long enough to have his brit. I guess my body just was not strong enough for a healthy baby.
There wasn’t any time to mourn, though, because the British left Palestine and we were finally able to enter our homeland. The Jewish Agency gave us a tiny apartment and Manny found work. He bought me a used sewing machine and I became a seamstress.
We were blessed with two daughters. Vered was named after my mother and Pnina after Manny’s. What beautiful girls they were and so close. There were more pregnancies but they all ended in miscarriages so I made up my mind to be thankful for my two girls. My house was going to be a house of light and laughter. The girls always knew they could bring their friends home. We would rejoice in the future and not mourn the past.
They grew into fine young women and both married fine young men, Torah teachers, both of them, to little boys. Not everyone can teach little boys but my sons-in-law were excellent at it.
Vered’s first born was a boy and she named him, Aryeh, after my father. I could not believe the joy I felt when I held him in my arms for the first time. Please, HaShem, I prayed, let me be alive for his Bar Mitzvah.
More children followed. Vered had two more boys and three girls. Pnina had five boys and then a little princess. Shira was a happy baby, but there were problems with her heart. The doctors sent her to America for surgery and they said it was successful, she would be fine.  Oh, was I happy to hold her in my arms when she returned to Israel. Please, HaShem, I prayed, let her make it to her Bat Mitzvah.
She did.  Pnina had a lovely family party in her home and Shira wore the dress I had made for her. She had such poise as she gave her Bat Mitzvah speech. I began daydreaming about being around to make her wedding dress.
She was fourteen when she met some friends downtown to go out for ice cream and pizza. The suicide bomber killed six children, one grandmother, and a baby.  Seeing my daughter sitting shiva for Shira was one of the hardest things I have ever experienced; harder than the camps, harder than losing my family, harder than my baby dying. Yet Pnina found the strength to comfort me.
“Ima,” she told me. “I’m going to be like you. This is not going to ruin our lives. We lost Shira but we are not going to lose the others by wallowing in our grief. We will keep our home of light just like you did.”
And she did. There was never a family simcha, though, that we did not mention Shira. The children grew and, to my amazement Aryeh was engaged. Manny and I were alive and healthy enough to make it to the wedding. Not only did we make it to the wedding, Manny was called up to the chupah to recite one of the seven blessings.
My heart was full of joy and pride. Suddenly I remembered the words we say every year at the Passover Seder.
For not only has one risen against us to annihilate us, but in every generation they rise against us. But the Holy One, Blessed is He, rescues us from their hand.
I cannot dream of understanding why HaShem made the Shoah. Nor why He allows Arab terrorists to murder so many of us. The Almighty has His reasons and I am not going to question them. I am going to be thankful that I survived to rebuild a beautiful family in the Land of Israel. My mother and father and sisters and brothers and uncles and aunts and cousins were not saved. Neither was Shira. But the Jewish people were.
Simcha: happy, in this context a joyous occasion
Chupah: wedding canopy

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