web analytics
December 22, 2014 / 30 Kislev, 5775
 
At a Glance
InDepth
Sponsored Post
8000 meals Celebrate Eight Days of Chanukah – With 8,000 Free Meals Daily to Israel’s Poor

Join Meir Panim’s campaign to “light up” Chanukah for families in need.



‘With Tears Running Down My Cheeks’

           Stuart W. Mirsky, a city official in the Giuliani administration, is an author and occasional op-ed contributor to The Jewish Press. He has just completed A Raft on the River, (available at Amazon.com) a Holocaust story about a young girl’s struggle to survive the Nazi invasion of her hometown, Kolomyia, in what was then eastern Poland (Paul Mould Publishing, UK). 

 
The Jewish Press: How did you come to write A Raft on the River and why?
 
I was fortunate not to have many relatives in Europe at the time of the Holocaust (except for a long lost great-uncle on my father’s side) but, like most of us, I was raised in the Holocaust’s shadow. My parents encouraged me to learn about it but this had the unfortunate effect of making it almost too familiar, just another story in the long tale of our people’s suffering. But in 2006, when I was approached to edit the Holocaust manuscript of Bitter Freedom, my writing had hit a roadblock and I needed something different to work on.
 
Bitter Freedom was a searing personal account of the survival of four people as they hid for twenty-two months in a hole in the ground, never able to come up for air, change their clothes, take a bath, living in the darkness with bugs and rats and Germans periodically stomping around overhead. The author, Jafa Wallach, her husband and her brothers lived through it all. At times, their story brought tears to my eyes. But the family wanted the story preserved as Mrs. Wallach had written it, though I thought there were ways to make it stronger. Jafa Wallach, who recorded her experiences a little more than a decade after they ended, wasn’t a professional writer and I wanted to do more than the family would allow.
 
As I was finishing it my mother, Ruth Mirsky, came to me with a story about a woman she knew who had gone through the Holocaust, too. Also from Poland, though a bit farther east (in what is today the Ukraine), Miriam Sorger had fled the Kolomyia ghetto at age fifteen, after her blind grandmother was shot by a guard and her mother, sister and cousin were shipped to the camps. Running alone through the countryside, Miriam struggled to hide her identity until she found safe harbor in the home of a Ukrainian priest.
 
How did her story differ from the first one you worked on?
 
Unlike the people in Bitter Freedom who suffered terribly in their hidden bunker for two years, Miriam’s is a story of desperation, courage, and chutzpa. She lived each day in fear of discovery. Though some of the people she encountered were sympathetic, others were clearly on the side of the Nazis and her problem was telling them apart. She was living on the edge, her childhood wrenched from her, along with everything she had known until then.
 
But what really attracted me was that her story gave me the opportunity to do what I couldn’t do with Bitter Freedom. Unlike Jafa Wallach, Miriam had no manuscript. Her story was told entirely in a series of anecdotes which she had shared with her children over the years and they were afraid of losing that knowledge forever. One of her sons, David, was instrumental in the plan to finally get it written down.
 
Miriam recalled everything in bits and pieces so I had to visit her weekly, over a six-month period, to tease out the details. She wanted her story accurately told but, at the same time, I wanted to put more of myself into it than I had been able to do with Bitter Freedom, to give it a somewhat literary voice and make it more accessible to a wider audience.
 
How did Miriam manage to survive, given what you’ve described?
 
            A lot of luck and her own naive courage. And, of course, we do remarkable things when we have to. In one instance, in a little town, she was very nearly caught in a Nazi sweep. Earlier she had tried to talk her way into joining her brother and his family who were in hiding with an old Polish woman, but the woman was too afraid. That turned out for the best, since things didn’t go well for her brother and his family in the end. Miriam ended up wandering aimlessly from town to town for weeks on end, living off the land, but eventually she found a place as a servant in the home of a Ukrainian priest in Podhacje. But the priest’s wife — he was an Orthodox priest and therefore married — turned out to be a cruel taskmaster who hated Poles almost as much as she did Jews. Miriam, of course, was pretending to be a non-Jewish Pole.
 
How did her experiences affect her Judaism, her connection with her own people?
 
            For years she had to live as someone else, but when she got back to Kolomyia it was the Jewish community, what was left of it anyway, that took her in. It took her a long time to give up the little borrowed cross she had been wearing because she had become attached to it as a kind of good luck charm. Traveling west to escape the Russians, Miriam and her new family ended up being caught by the British. Hoping to convince them she was a returning German Jew, she allowed her Polish papers and the little cross she had hung onto until then to be burned. Still, the British guessed the truth and sent them all to Bergen-Belsen, then being used as a displaced persons camp.
 
Miriam’s story isn’t unique but her flight into the occupied countryside and her struggle to hide in plain sight afforded me the opportunities I’d missed with Bitter Freedom.
 
            Do you plan to do other Holocaust stories?
 
            Having done two, and having found myself with tears running down my cheeks as I worked on both, I’m not sure I’m up for another at this point. I’m finally getting back to the work I’d set aside when I first decided to assist in preparing Bitter Freedom for publication. My first historical novel, The King of Vinland’s Saga, published in 1998, is about Norsemen and Indians in eleventh century North America and I’ve been working on another, about Saul and David, looking at their conflict from a new angle, one that recognizes Saul’s contributions as much as David’s.
 

I’ve also got one in the hopper about escaped African slaves in pre-Civil War America and another about the Russians and the Khazars in 10th century Europe. Finally I’d like to finish one I’ve begun about a dying businessman struggling with an obligation to forgive a great wrong. So for the time being I think I’ll leave to others the Holocaust and the terrible tales of suffering and loss it generated.

About the Author: Jason Maoz is the Senior Editor of The Jewish Press.


If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.

Our comments section is intended for meaningful responses and debates in a civilized manner. We ask that you respect the fact that we are a religious Jewish website and avoid inappropriate language at all cost.

If you promote any foreign religions, gods or messiahs, lies about Israel, anti-Semitism, or advocate violence (except against terrorists), your permission to comment may be revoked.

No Responses to “‘With Tears Running Down My Cheeks’”

Comments are closed.

SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Current Top Story
Haredi men cast their votes for the 19th Knesset in Bnei Brak, January 22 2013.
New Poll: Shows Netanyahu Will Lead Next Gov’t with Haredim
Latest Indepth Stories
512px-Jerusalem_Hannukah_021210

Let us become modern day Maccabees and seize the day. Embrace the challenge. Fight for Hashem.

Motta Gur overlooks the Old City with his troops during the Six Day War

Har HaBayit is still Biyadein; Through our actions, its fate is in our hands


What does the way we count the days of Chanukah come to teach us about living in the present?

Knesset and Menorah

Israel projects global material illumination not always the light of “morality” meant by the Navi

“Mr. Prime Minister, declare a unilateral ceasefire! Remember, Blessed is the peacemaker!”

“D-e-t-e-r-m-i-n-a-t-i-o-n!”

Hamas is continuing to prepare its next war against Israel instead of improving conditions in Gaza

If the UN Grants national recognition to Palestine, why stop there? Tibet, Chechnya, Basque…

The decision to not publicly light the Menorah in Sydney, epitomizes the eternal dilemma of Judaism and Jews in the Diaspora.

Am Yisrael is one family, filled with excruciating pain&sorrow for losing the 4 kedoshim of Har Nof

What is its message of the dreidel?” The complexity and hidden nature of history and miracles.

Police play down Arab terrorism as mere “violence” until the truth can no longer be hidden.

The 7 branches of the menorah represent the 7 pillars of secular wisdom, knowledge, and science.

Obama obtained NO verifiable commitments from Cuba it would desist from acts prejudicial to the US

No one would deny that the program subjected detainees to less than pleasant treatment, but the salient point is, for what purpose?

For the past six years President Obama has consistently deplored all Palestinian efforts to end-run negotiations in search of a UN-imposed agreement on Israel.

More Articles from Jason Maoz
Comptroller DiNapoli celebrates Sukkot with Crown Heights Jewish community leaders at the sukkah of Rabbi Chanina Sperlin of the Crown Heights Jewish Community Council.

The New York State comptroller manages the state’s $180.7 billion pension fund, audits the spending practices of all state agencies and local governments, oversees the New York State and Local Retirement System, reviews the New York State and City budgets, and approves billions in State contracts and spending.

Front-Page-102414

While not all criticism of Israel stemmed from anti-Semitism, Podhoretz contends the level of animosity towards Israel rises exponentially the farther left one moved along the spectrum.

When you grow up in a home where your parents went through what my parents went through, you realize that life has to be meaningful. You have to be there for other people.

“It’s a lousy column and a dishonest one,” Halberstam wrote. “So close it. Or you will end up just as shabby as Safire.”

Wye would be seen to have set the groundwork for the creation of a Palestinian state

These are not necessarily the best all-around biographies or studies of the individual presidents listed (though some rank right up there), but the strongest in terms of exploring presidential attitudes and policies toward Israel.

The Clintonan “engagement” liberals remember with such fondness did nothing but embolden Arafat and Hamas and Hizbullah as they witnessed Israel’s only real ally elevate process ahead of policy.

What really makes one wonder about the affinity felt by certain Jews for Grant was the welcome mat he put out for some of the country’s most pernicious anti-Semites.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/interviews-and-profiles/with-tears-running-down-my-cheeks/2008/07/16/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: