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[Page 263]

My Father

Yehoshua Abramowitz

Translated from Hebrew to Czech by Michael Dunayevsky

Translated from Czech to Polish by Andrzej Ciesla

Translated from Polish to English by Caroline Ullman

I always wished to know more about my father, but he was too busy to tell me about his past, about his childhood and adolescence in his hometown. Sometimes I felt that it was easier for him to write about than to speak about his experiences because he did write a lot about them. I remember my father's short stories, where he wrote about the town and the market days, when many people came by horse-drawn carriages. The town-square was full of wagons, and the unharnessed horses, their heads turned towards their carts and ate the chopped straw from their nose-bags. It was crowded between the wagons, and the town was filled with shouts and noise. Farmers from the area were buying from the Jews. This is what happened in every small town. When I think about it today, I come to the conclusion, that success in business relies on those who are doing it. Either they are cunning and sell at a lower price, or have a friendly approach are polite and have a smile; this is howthey get customers.

My father understood that it was strange to me that I didn't have a grandfather or grandmother. He told me that his father, owner of a lumber business, died at a young age. He was a believing Jew and gave tzedaka. He gave money to the town council from his own goodwill and this is why everyone had respect for him and benefited from his generosity. After his death, the weight of supporting the family was transfered to my father, who at a very young age had to work. He studied photography in Warsaw.

He was a quite sensitive and content person, and it is easy to understand that he wasn't oblivious to the problems of nationalism. He personally experienced anti-Semitism and for this reason began to sympathize with Zionist ideals. He became a devoted and active participant in this movement. He was involved as much as was possible. He gave his heart and soul to the movement. He joined the kibbutz Hachshara (Readiness) and dreamed of emigrating to Palestine.

After the start of World War II, he experienced the horrors of the ghetto. Thankfully, he was able to escape to Russia, where he survived long and hard trials. Life got harder day after day, but my father nevertheless tried to keep a connection with his people and helped his brethren in need whenever it was possible. I have no doubt that my father could have written a whole book about his experiences during the war, if not for the terrible tragedy. He died at the prime of his life, an active and contributing member of society.

After the war, when he returned to Poland, he fought a hard battle for Jewish emigration to Palestine. He selflessly volunteered for the organization Bricha (Escape) in which he performed many functions and in 1946 he emigrated to Palestine. There he joined the organization Hagana (Opposition) and was injured.

On our frequent walks, my father's many stories always improved my mood. He wanted not only to give me the facts, but more importantly, the essence of his life in the diaspora, the reality of Jewish life in his town and the hard work of his fellow townspeople. He never felt at peace with his emigration but felt the need for the struggle, and this was evident in his stories.

His pain was evident when he spoke about his suffering during the Holocaust; it stabbed at his heart like a thousand knives. On the other hand, he always spoke with enthusiasm about his travels and the beauty of Israel. At the time, he worked as a photographer at the publisher Bamachane and was a part of many assignments that took him across the width and breadth of Israel. His pleasant and eloquent descriptions of his travels were interesting to hear.

My father was concise and specific. This served him in his approach to the problems he suffered in his life and in the torment of his soul. Nevertheless, he was still unsettled; his passionate, sensitive heart desired a resolution.

When he started to work on the book about his hometown, he tried to do the best he could. He gave himself over completely and chose his words carefully, he did not blame and did not exaggerate. In this work he found catharsis. He said, “Yes, this must be done.” In spite of his experiences, he retained his youthful outlook, his ability to understand another person, and tried to pass these qualities on to me. I pray that I will have the strength to follow in his footsteps.

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