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  • Writer's pictureAllon

031~ Lily

I was lucky to re-encounter a first-hand Holocaust survivor during my adult dive into Holocaust studies. She had a tattooed number on her arm, She survived the death camps! As a kid, there seemed to be tons of them going around. Every Annual Holocaust Memorial Day during the 80s, everybody had a grandmother or other relatives to boast around with, walking around the school but not me, my family (the ones who survived) left Europe back in the 30's as I mention in my first post:

I heard, learned, and listened to everything openly, unfiltered. Unable to question, or realise the subtleties of things the way they were presented and everything from my childhood memories of the holocaust was wrapped up in my mind in very simplistic terms, such as good, bad, us, them, etc.

But as I love the quote by Tom Robbins: "The world can be divided into two types of people: those who divide the world into two, and those who feel things are a bit more complicated than that".

So, suddenly, when I walked into our last rented place in the village we had lived in for almost a decade, mysteriously walking only to one of the dozen windows of the flat and pulled out a key that seemed like it was left there from some Reich instruction-manual, frozen in time waiting for an agent to follow instructions, returning to research this topic was closing on me once again.

You may read about the Swastika key I found in the flat it in this post:

I quickly learned also that Lily, our next-door neighbour, 85 years old was a survivor. Life began being really cruel to her when she was 12 which is when she was sent to Auschwitz, staying there for 2 and a half years until the camp was liberated. She made her way back to her hometown, only to find an empty house stripped off of everything she remembered: furniture, wooden doors and frames, the chimney, the stove, everything.

She sat there for a few days (weeks?), waiting for her family to return and end this nightmare, but the nightmare kept its grip on her. Nobody returned. A girl about to turn 15, waiting in the ruins of her house indefinitely.

One day someone searching for Jewish survivors came to her house after hearing about her and convincing her that there was nothing left for her there they head off to Israel; I think he even married her, or something like that, divorcing a few years later.

The new opportunities in Israel finally dealt her some good cards. The first one was when she headed down to a southern settlement on a bus when she and the driver realized they came from the same country.

They could talk without anybody around who might understand them. He said to her, "We are headed for a dump. It's a hole in the corner of the desert. If you get off the bus, you will never get out of there again." She asked him what could she do, and he said, "When the bus stops and everybody gets off, you hold on to this pole next to me and scream your guts out as crazily as you can. Do whatever you must to stay on the bus." She did as he instructed, and found herself heading back with the driver to Tel Aviv. Had she got off the bus, she would have been one of the founders of a small town call Dimona, A small town, almost deserted by the government with still hardly anything there. Back from the bus station - She was sent to a lovely village 20 km north of Tel Aviv where she received a nice piece of land, to grow vegetation. Later to be worth a fortune.

Life began to smile back at her.

Lily was, as I mentioned, my second chance to talk to a survivor, after years of letting this issue go by. I had so many questions starting from 2008 that were growing in my head. I figured it was just another one of those signs for me to pursue and sort out the stories in a way that I could settle my mind. And there she was, a neighbor with answers to my questions... or at least, so I thought. I did get some answers from her, but for some questions, I have yet to ask or even think of.

Lily hardly ever asked me for anything. Her son, who leased our flat to us, also took care of her for anything she needed, and even for things she didn't need but agreed to accept from him from time to time. He used to get so frustrated about it.

We cared for her, and I was sent a few times to help whenever her son couldn't make it home or to the aged care center, and I would go and collect her, not always in the best shape. Sometimes it was scary; once, as they placed her in my car she just said something like "I don't want to go to this centre anymore, tell my son" and dropped her head back. I thought she died in my car on the way to her little flat. I swear, if I drove any slower than the speed I was going, we would have been driving in reverse...

Small anecdote - when I shared my feelings with her son, about that specific drive, I told him I was very concerned about her in that drive - and his reply was - "don't worry - I will never ask for your help again" which I immediately said - "don't be ridiculous, I'm here if you need me"... but noted to myself - that emotions is probably. something he must have learnt from his mom, to ignore...I can understand why.

But one day, she called me and asked for my help. It was the Purim festival just around the corner, and she asked if we had costumes she could use for a recreation center competition. I brought boxes of clothes and masks I used in special photography lessons, and of course, she got a bit annoyed at me for making such a fuss out of her request. But I knew she loved it because she asked me to take her photo.

Lily - smiling

She was never much of a talker. She had sharp and surprising takes on life and stuff, solid opinions about things. I wouldn't dare start questioning her or be responsible for her beginning to doubt and question life perceptions at this stage of life, especially since she never asked for it. And I think she had gone through enough for at least one lifetime, don't you think?

She called me after the Purim festival costume competition and celebration. I went over to collect the costumes. She was so happy. "I had such a great time. Everybody loved my costume, and I want to thank you." She pointed at a basket full of candy she won for reaching 2nd place. She was bitter in her special way showing me the candy - "They are probably trying to kill me with all these sweets" she handed the basket to me "Here, give this to your children. They can handle the sugar, and don't forget the costumes." Then as I walked out she said "Thank you for making me feel special," and I smiled and walked out trying to make it seem like it was no big deal.

When we told her 5 years ago that we were about to leave within a month, we were outside on the path road. "I am happy for you, but sad for me," she said and walked off with her nursing worker and that was it. We never got to talk to her again. The following week she was hospitalised, probably the 5th time that year, but this time we all felt she is not going to come back. She passed away 2 days before we left.

We had the chance to escort her to her burial spot, and the next day I had the opportunity to visit the bereaved family on the Shivah, and that was it.

I will share some sentences she told me that really helped my, for some strange way put some ideas at peace.

RIP Lily ❤️‍🩹

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