Tuesday, November 5, 2013

What is remembered, lives

I haven't got the right words yet to describe my experience yesterday. It was powerful, meaningful -though I am unable to articulate the meaning just yet. The experience is still brewing.

I marched down to the Library first thing, renewed my reader's card, arrived in the reading room a half hour before the person who could fetch the book came in to work. I was on a mission! It was wonderful to sit there in the beauty of the Library. You can feel the history, the reverence for books - so cool. I read a book about ancient Sumer while I waited - it was not time wasted, and too, it gave me time to get grounded before the encounter with That Book.

I held the Yizkor book in my hands, I stared at it, I leafed through it. Most of the book is about Kremenits which was a much bigger town close to my family's village. At the back of the book is a very short section of memories of Vzysgorodek. As it turned out, the book has not been translated from the Yiddish. The Hebraic specialist on duty doesn't know Yiddish at all, or she could have done some quick translating. I didn't get to read the stories, but I held the book. It was epic, I tell you.

The experience was so powerful, I didn't even take pictures, except for these - the cover of the book and the first page of "Memories of Vzysgorodek before 1927." When I go back, I'll remember to photograph the reading room. It is exquisitely beautiful.

I guess that's one of the Carpathian mountains in the background. The village is certainly Kremenits since almost the whole book is about it. It looks rustic, doesn't it? And that was the BIG town.

I ran into a couple of the brainiac househusbands of Capitol Hill this morning. One of them, the guy who asked about the tattoo and pointed me in the direction of the Library of Congress, has already put out the word that I'm looking for someone to translate the memories into English. He's hooked in to the Yiddish program at the U of M. He says a grad student could do a great job and would be interested in the work. What a great idea. But even before I get it translated I'll go back just to hold it, leaf through, look at the pictures and such. Oh that book.

On the way down to the Library, I took lots of pictures. Sundogs appeared and disappeared in a ring around Brother Sun. I saw some before, some more after I left the Library. The air was crisp, the trees were resplendent in all their colors. It was surreal. It was like a cartoon of autumn, everything exaggerated.

I didn't cry until I got back to the chateau. Once in the quiet of my home I wept profoundly. My heart was wide open. It will take awhile to integrate.

In a way, it's funny because these ancestors would not know what to make of me, my "life style," my mysticism, shamanism and my pre-Judaism Jewishness. I am not traditional, but they were. They would disapprove, I guarantee it. They might even be appalled to hear my life's stories - even I find them somewhat appalling, well some of them anyway. Ah but they're stuck with me, because I'm the member of my family who is strongly called to work with Holocaust era ancestors. My siblings are grateful I'm doing this but the work doesn't call them. No. It's up to me. Sorry, ancestors!

Actually I'm not at all sorry.



Wayne said...

Isn't it amazing how powerful it can be just to hold a book? I mean, to not even understand it - just to hold it. Amazing stuff.

kob said...

This a beautiful post, Reya, and the photo of the tree is so perfect in its context and so emotive in its framing that it is a magic unfolded.

Reya Mellicker said...


Let's get together sometime soon. It's your birthday festival season. We should celebrate.

Steve Reed said...

Who knows what your ancestors were like, really? Maybe they weren't really all that conformist. You may have had some free spirits in your family even back then!

I hope you get someone to translate. I'd love to know the story of the village. Can someone at Temple Micah or one of the other Synagogues help, maybe?

Reya Mellicker said...

I'll find someone for sure.

Cool thought, Steve. But I doubt they were free spirits. The shtetl lifestyle was pretty much set in stone over the centuries. At least I think so.

Pam said...

This is exciting, and poignant too.
The ones in the family chosen for this research ( more receptive to ongoing ancestral communication) are therefore more open to the emotions too. No wonder you cried!
I believe ancestors work through others too. Husband and I found after we were married that generations back our great great grandparents were next door neighbours and very close friends who's sons enlisted in the same regiments and fought in the First World War together.
My husband and I met as students at University and it was many years later we discovered that delightful story and eventually visited the street where they all lived.

I believe both directly and indirectly your new acquaintances will help you unravel this.