Today’s guest post comes from Lauren Berliner who writes with such endearing passion about her heroic grandmother and the bold lessons that she taught her. As mothers day rounds the corner, I hope you enjoy Lauren’s story as much as I do.
When you envision a hero, what comes to mind? A dashing blue cape that allows for speedy flying, spider webs that gobble up the concrete jungle’s bad guys, or an epic crime-stopping vehicle that defies the laws of engineering? Perhaps, take a moment to dig deeper and think about who has truly shaped (or saved) your life. Nowadays, heroes come in all shapes and sizes. For some, a politician, human rights leader or athlete inspires people to dream big and reach new heights in their day-to-day lives. Others find solace in music or their favorite movies where artists whisk admirers away to delve into new experiences, another era or even an exotic part of the world less discovered.
Lucky for me, my heroine can be found right within my family. Lea Lillian Herskovits was born in Cluj, Hungary as the only child to two loving parents. She lived a normal childhood full of friends, dance recitals and first kisses until that fateful day in 1944 when the Nazis invaded Hungary and changed the lives of the local Jewish population forever. After initial resistance from the government faded (most other central and eastern European countries already fell to Nazi rule,) the Jewish men, women and children of Hungary were sent to the ghettos for deportation to the concentration camps almost immediately. My grandmother and her family persevered through the tough labor camps of Bremen only to arrive at the gates of Auschwitz. The first day at the death camp was the last time she saw her father, since the men and women walked into two separate lines towards the unknown of terror that lay before them.
Her and her mother kept themselves motivated to survive by sticking together as a team (trying to stay one step ahead of the Nazis) and planning “dream menus” of delicious meals they would eat once they were released from the camps. After months of horrid conditions and starvation at Auschwitz, they survived – together – and spent the last few months of the war before liberation working tirelessly at the Bergen Belsen camp.
On a more positive note, she ended up being freed and interviewed by the man who soon became her husband (and my incredible late grandfather) in the first Jewish wedding in Frankfurt, Germany after WWII. In Jewish culture, we call that, beshert, or meant to be. In 1948, my grandparents moved to America and settled in Queens, NY, where my grandmother completed her undergraduate degree, received her Master’s in Public Health and worked as a social worker (she retired only last year!) On top of her hefty resume, she raised a family and is the most loving, positive, compassionate and wise grandmother, mother, and friend to everyone who has the pleasure of knowing her. Besides an incredible story of survival, what else can be learned from my heroic grandmother? - Stay positive. - Believe in the power of you. - Good always trumps evil. - Love and light can follow the worst of days.
- Nothing is stronger than the bond that ties a family. - Always look towards the future. - Pursue your passions. - Make the most of each day. - Never apologize for who you are. - Be yourself, and be proud. So, the next time that you’re feeling down, think of the above affirmations and try to see the silver lining. Keep moving forward and never let anyone take away your joy, beliefs and most importantly, life’s precious moments.
Do you have an inspiring story about a hero or heroine? Feel free to share in the comments section!