Something to make you think.
I spent the day today with my student at a Holocaust symposium, I had to note-take for her but the whole day was definitely an eye opener.
The morning was spent listening to a Polish Jewish man who had survived the Holocaust… the Warsaw ghetto uprising, 6 death camps and a death march at the end of the war. He had to endure losing his family in the death camps, and somehow managed to push through it all. He made a friend, whom towards the end of the war, was selected to be killed. He thought that his best friend was killed and he mourned him more than anyone else. By the time he was 13, he was alone and an orphan. He experienced a bunch more discrimination in his life after, abuse from people and other things.
He said that a few years ago, he read an article that was published for the society that is in, and this author was in a lot of the same camps as he was and so on. He contacted the author and said that he wanted to meet him, so they met in Warsaw… turned out that the author was his best friend, the same man that he thought he had lost many years before! Apparently his friend had bit one of the soldiers so hard and then was able to escape into the forest. They did everything they could to survive back then, including biting guards, faking deaths and more.
Listening to his story (and typing it out… as much as I could anyways), I’ve been going back to it in my mind all day. As he told us this story, I thought about all the innocent people who lost their lives, all the innocent people who fought for freedom, risked their lives, all the people who helped those Jews and other targeted people hide or escape. I thought about my Grandpère who was a co-pilot for the Canadian army and who spent time in a work camp after his plane was shot down and captured by the Nazis.
The man made a few good points and when the time came for question & answer, one of the students asked him how he was able to survive. He, had at the start of his story explained his family’s history and how they had been wine makers for hundreds of years. He then said because of how close he was with his father, and everything that they had gone through, that as long as he was alive, both his father and grandfather were a part of him. He didn’t want them to die since they were his angels. He said that since he had gone through a lot in his life, he was more open to helping others, he doesn’t have hatred and doesn’t regret anything in his life
It was incredibly moving.
The afternoon session was just as moving, it was by a girl who was born in a refugee camp in Iraq. She showed pictures of the camp and of her experiences. She told us about how she tried to hide who she really was once they moved to Winnipeg in 2001, and all the hardships she’s had. She told us how appreciative of the teachers she had here since when the fleed the camp, she only had a grade 2 education and she was put into a grade 9 class because she was 15.
Her main points were more geared towards the students who were still there since she’s much younger than the morning speaker. She reminded them to be proud of who they are, to be proud of where they came from and to not hide their true identity. And that she has been wanting to start a movement where there is less hatred and bigotry in the world. That we should all be accepting of everyone around us, no matter their religion, their race, their culture.
After typing over 10 thousand words, and 90-something pages later, I hit “save” for the last time and my student and the other student who had joined us both cheered, put their hands on my shoulders and thanked me profusely and said that I did a good job, considering I was the only note-taker.
Seriously, my job is harder than you think! But that being said, today was a good day, it’s made me think about life and that we should all be a lot more kinder to each other and we should never let history repeat itself.
If anyone has a chance to ever see either Mr. Gutter or Kobra Rahimi speak about their experiences, do so. They definitely opened my eyes to humanity. The world needs more people like them.