023~ Doda Ella or The wrong introduction to historical events
Updated: Aug 20
Associations on the edge of a flower bed in the fields.
Babysitting "Doda Ella" (Aunty Ella) was one of the chores I dreaded the most. I must have been 8 years old at the time, and we had lovely, quiet, and very nice elderly neighbors. Alex was a dentist and away almost all day, while Ella was home all the time. Occasionally, he would stay late at work, and she would call my mom and ask for one of us to keep her company. She was afraid of the dark and being alone in it... So it happened rarely.
She had the notorious Auschwitz tattoo number on her arm and shared terrible stories that I couldn't fully comprehend. One of them was about why her legs were deformed (though I didn't notice anything), which prevented her from walking much. Another story was about undergoing "a selection" in front of Eichmann three times. She recounted witnessing people being shot before her eyes for reasons as trivial as not wearing a hat or answering back.
However, the story that I distinctly remember questioning was the one about her risking her life to smuggle cabbage over the wall to the prisoners. She claimed she was caught, but instead of being killed, they sent her back to the kitchen because she was a good cook. She told me this story during the one visit when my older sister was also there. While she shared the story, she was making us doughnuts. However, when she served them to us, they were still completely raw, with the mixture oozing out from the fried "pancake" like a cracked egg. As a little kid, I thought to myself, "That's odd." Of course, I never said anything...
Kids sometimes extract the weirdest lessons from situations. Just like when a friend told me that when he informed his young children about their grandmother's death, the eldest said, "Well, now you don't have to brush your teeth before bed!"
And so, I come to the essence of this blog post... As I mentioned before, I had the privilege of conducting photography workshops, and sometimes it was for youngsters who had just returned from a program in Poland. I asked them to recall the most powerful moment they could remember.
One participant shared that for her, a powerful moment occurred when they visited a death camp and got caught in the rain. They ran for refuge anywhere they could and found themselves huddled together in a small ditch. The guide who was with them decided to read an essay that made them all burst into tears and cry. Sometimes, in moments of such intensity, stress, anxiety, group pressure, and healthy defense mechanisms kick in, and kids usually smile, laugh, crack jokes, and mainly block the situation from penetrating their thoughts. But this time, they all cried.
I asked her if she remembered what the essay was about, and they all recalled it very well—it was a letter written by one of the guides who had accompanied kids on a similar program to the camp a few years earlier. He wrote a letter to his mom, and it was published. That was the trigger that made these youngsters crack, and it eventually became one of the most memorable experiences they had.
It made me think of the scene in the movie "The Princess Bride" in which Westley tells the Princess, "I am not the Dread Pirate Roberts," he said, "My name is Ryan."
While you're in YouTube...a few beautifully authentic vlog created by a young talented teenageres following the delegation trip to Poland.
I wish it could be in English - but I think the vibe is quite clear: