This year was my first V-E (Victory in Europe) Day without my grandfather. He was the last living veteran in my family. He died last September at 91, an orphan who lost three sisters, a brother and parents to Romanian collaborators. Nothing could ever bring them back and his last thoughts were on his pending reunion with them. He longed for them all his life. We praised his heroism and ability to rebuild a family, but his most common reply was for us to be thankful that we did not experience the war and a tefillah that there should never be another world war.
He lived through extremely difficult times but he never dismissed my personal struggles, in my faith, education, shidduchim and searching for work. He understood that each generation has its tests. His simply had a greater physical challenge to survival.
This V-E Day was to be like all others for me. I visited the remaining veterans, listen to Soviet war hymns, watched the parade on Red Square and read a few heroic stories. I read about the Bielski brothers’ partisan fight in the Belarusian forests, Alexander Pechersky’s successful escape from Sobibor, Ilya Ehrenburg and Vassily Grossman’s reports from the front lines, and the thunderous voice of radio announcer Yuri Levitan who declared the end of the Second World War.
May their memory be a blessing.