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All That Was: Chapter Forty-Seven - Epilogue

...'All that was' is a testimony arching across the first twenty five years of my life. It begins in Lodz, when a little Jewish girl lived in the bosom of her doting parents, and ends with a stateless refugee landing in Australia. In a way it is a search for balance between a blithe childhood and the aftermath of the Holocaust. A daunting quest...

With this epilogue we come to the end of Lusia Przybyszewicz's profoundly moving story of courage and survival during the dark days of World War Two. Lusia escaped from the Warsaw Ghetto, then worked as a "slave'' in a hotel in Nazi Germany, daily fearful of being discovered to be Jewish. After the war she lived in near poverty in Paris and other parts of France. Eventually she emigrated to Australia, where she built a new life for herself.

All That Was is a splendid literary achievment. Copies of the book are available from Lusia at PO 404 Vaucluse, NSW 2030, Australia ($25 Australian plus postage).

To read this work from the beginning click on All That Was in the menu on this page. Having read all 47 chapters don't be surprised if you feel compelled to go back to Chapter One to read through them again.

'All that was' is a testimony arching across the first twenty five years of my life. It begins in Lodz, when a little Jewish girl lived in the bosom of her doting parents, and ends with a stateless refugee landing in Australia. In a way it is a search for balance between a blithe childhood and the aftermath of the Holocaust. A daunting quest.

With luck, this slightly random portrayal of my girlhood, now blissful - now traumatic, will shed some light on the Jewish way of life in Poland in the 1920s and 1930s, from my perspective.

Furthermore, the recounting of my war experiences might sound another warning to the young of the post-war era never to be complacent. 'We might forgive, but we must never forget'.

For myself, I believe that unlocking the secrets of my private world and reminiscing in such a public way have lightened the load. In other words, I guess, I have gained substantial therapeutic benefits from this 'unburdening' exercise. In addition, I may have also mellowed a little with age and taken a more philosophical view of things.

Yet there can be no doubt that the impact of the woeful past on all the subsequent years of my life remains profound.

The pre-war youthful light-heartedness gave way to a more sober, deliberate appraisal of any situation. These days I like to think things out and refrain from hasty decisions. I do not allow myself to be readily intimidated nor to give in at the drop of a hat.

Though I did not lose faith in the human race, I do not trust my fellows quite as readily as before, and I recoil at the thought of depending upon their good will.

Daily life under Nazi terror blurred the boundary between hope and despair to the point when one constantly lurched from one to the other. Maybe that is why I tend to keep a cool head in face of disasters (which nonetheless are forever lurking at the back of my mind). I learned, as did innumerable members of my generation, to face adversity squarely, and if it appears inevitable, to attempt to come to terms with it.

Since we all agree that 'self-preservation is the first law of nature,' I assume there exists within us a built-in mechanism designed to assist us in grappling with the unbearable. My own way of dealing with pain is to store it somewhere in my memory and 'deactivate' it, as it were, at will. This practice enables me to remain fairly sane and to go on living quite happily.

Clearly, I have been toughened over time by having to wrestle alone with impossible situations. That experience taught me to rely first and foremost on my own resourcefulness. I am aware that because of my disposition I tend to put great demands upon myself, and I often unjustly expect others to follow suit.

It took me considerable time to realize that such a conjecture can be quite devastating to our 'Baby Boomers' who are largely untrammeled by war. Mercifully, in peace time, they enjoyed growing up under more auspicious circumstances; the same birthrights apply also to our young generation. They have time for reflection, relaxation and leisure and are free to seek help or advice whenever the need arises. Counsellors are readily available to steer them away from rough patches.

As for myself, I am too set in my ways to follow all the modern trends and probably wont to wearing scars. Self-reliance is my only weapon. Besides, I cannot fathom how a young, university trained 'counsellor,' devoid of any life experiences such as I had, could make out what aches me.

I freely admit that on bad days the impact of the past on my being is particularly potent. I often feel overwhelmed by a sense of guilt for being alive, while so many more worthy individuals perished. I seem compelled to act always in a meaningful fashion, to make positive contributions, to espouse frugality and to shun ostentatiousness in all its forms.

These days the loss of a few remaining old friends caused even the present to become less comforting than it used to be in the nineties when I began writing my story. I find myself battling a sense of alienation and of acute loneliness that goes unrecognized by so many and yet is so common among the survivors.

I am at my best when I am busy. Lingering on or waiting for things to happen, intensify automatically a state of anxiety and are therefore anathema to my peace of mind.

I know no greater pride and joy than watching my new found family in Australia grow and prosper. May their happiness in this land of peace and plenty be eternal!

As for my parents, my brother Bolek, and my darling eldest grand-daughter Angela, I shall mourn their passing till the end of my days.

From amongst the scores of relatives and friends woven into my story, few remain alive today.
Sadly, all the members of the Hepner family passed away. The twins, Marianne and Georges, succumbed to a grave illness. Ignace Taub, my childhood mate and mentor, met a similar fate during his mother's lifetime. My late husband, Cec, and I met up with him in London in the early 1950s.

There and then we were also befriended by Jasia's aunt Marysia, who, together with her husband Henio, had witnessed my mother's selection for Treblinka at the notorious Umschlag Platz. They were our only friends at the time of the birth of our son, Claude Henry. Both are dead now.

In 1977 Claude and I managed to visit Adolf Brauner in Lodz. Our encounter, as one can imagine, was very moving. We found my former saviour ill and desperately sad. He lost his wife soon after the Liberation and lived alone ever since. Our meeting became all the more poignant, as we learned that in more recent times he had to endure the sudden death of his only son, his pride and joy. Gerhard was a young successful brain surgeon.

In recognition of his unswerving loyalty to our family, I recommended Adolf Brauner to Yad Vashem for inclusion in the ranks of the Righteous Gentiles. Unfortunately he passed away in the meantime.

I maintained contact with Hania B. after migrating to Australia in 1947. She was married and lived still in Warsaw. Eventually she settled in the States, where she followed a distinguished career in science. I visited her there a few times.

In 1977, during our visit to Poland, I met Hania's parents. Very kindly, they let us have their flat in Warsaw while they were staying at a holiday resort at Srodborow. Claude and I went to see them there, an occasion I found very moving. I believe it to be the first and only time I met her father.

I saw also Marian again that year in Warsaw,where he was working for the Polish Television. At one time he was the Polish Bridge Champion. I have since learned that he died in Communist Poland after serving a prison sentence for dissent.

Hania came for a visit to Sydney in l993.

Jasia and Stasio in Lyon remain my very oldest and closest friends. I travel to see them as often as I can. I also keep in touch with Laure.

S. died a few years ago in Melbourne. I still keep in touch with her sister R.

Stasio passed away on the 9th of February, 2000.


Bibliography

William L. Shirer: 'The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich,' UK 1960.

Encyclopedia Britannica.

Luckjan Dobroszycki, Editor: 'The Chronicle of the Lodz Ghetto 1942 - 1944.

Josef Marszalek: Majdanek, the Concentration Camp in Lublin. Warsaw 1986.

Ryszard Czarkowski: Cieniom Treblinki (to the Ghosts of Treblinka). Warsaw 1989.

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