The First Return (short story)
By Magalí Druscovich
He doesn't lift his feet very far off the ground, but he moves fast. He carries a cane and, like everyone else, is warmly dressed.
Like me, he walks alone. The sky is cloudy. I take off my gloves and approach him. I greet him in Hebrew and he answers in English.
We exchange a few words, then walk on side-by-side, in silence. We still have two kilometers left. "It's the first time I'm back in Auschwitz after the war ended," he says.
It is also the first time I come, but I was not here before. "Unfortunately my wife died recently, and I decided to go back."
We keep walking. We look at the ground, or the sky. At other times our eyes meet. "I suffered many things in these fields because of being a Jew," he says. He stares at the clouds. "It's so hard to come without my wife. When she died, she left a will. A month ago, the lawyer let us open it. With a meticulous detail, she wrote to whom she left each of her memories and her last request: 'I want to be buried in Lodz, the town where I was born in Poland, and I want to be buried as a Jew, how I was born'." He drops his eyes to the ground. "I'm not sad because my wife died, I'm sad because I never told her that I'm also Jewish." I look at him and I give him my hand, that's why I took off my gloves.
The project is created based on the fundamental premise of what will happen when there is no longer any witness of what happened in the Second World War.
How will it be counted? Will the message arrive the same? Is there forgetfulness? Will it happen again?
Embracing hopes is a web platform displaying portraits of Holocaust Jewish survivors who arrived in Latin America, Israel and United States. Following each of these, you access different portfolios: the story of the survivor, their book, a song sung by them from when they were little, audio telling their experiences, a phrase, a message, more photos, a small memory and a proposal educational and didactic to perform. The contents deepen each story and allow each viewer to make their own journey, in the same way that each survivor found other paths after their firm decisions not to return to live on the same land as their relatives were killed. In new cities, they found happiness, love and also new attacks against their identity.
60 cups of coffee and tea, 35 pieces of cake, 80 buses, more than 12.000 photos, 15 books, 10 movies, 29 calls, 31 audios, 6 airplanes, to tell many stories. I inquire into their eyes. Cheerful, sad. They lived the war, they suffered because of their condition of being Jewish and all of them welcomed me into their homes. "I can tell you my story, how the events happened. But I will never be able to transmit to you what I felt ", these were the first words Francisco Wichter, the only survivor in Argentina from Schindler's List, told me, the first day I met him in May 2012. That made me even more interested in doing this work. We can never feel their suffering, be on their skin. You can drink many cups of coffee, read many books and watch many movies with them. But despite our insistence as human beings, we can not be his faithful reflection.
However, that is not why I stayed with my arms crossed. I decided to embrace hopes with them. That is why the decision of the portraits and the construction of the diptychs. On the one hand, the past, the diffuse identity, the brands, the memories, the losses. And on the other hand, the eyes that convey, the marks on their faces, signs of what they lived, their lost looks, smiles sad and happy for what they knew how to build. Their cold hands but they embrace.
I had the magnificent and happy opportunity to hear all these stories in different languages. Not only their experiences in the war and the Shoah are transmitted, but also this web page is a bet on life. The message for future generations is a bet, their phrases are teachings for all ages. The educational proposals designed for each story, related to different themes of war teach us that there is much to learn and reflect. But above all things, love. With the 30 survivors, the same situation was repeated. When they relate their news, when they got married, their children and grandchildren shine their eyes, they light up, their mouths smile and their soul vindicates itself.
The portraits also show this part: the value of life. In this sense Aron confessed to me: "Those of us who have survived gave our people what they stole from us. One generation, two and even three generations." All stories have different forms of survival. Hidden, false identities, as Catholics, in concentration camps, fleeing to countries where the Nazis were not. Of the different forms that survived, in their own way, everyone had their hopes. They took care of them, sheltered them and fed them.