I recently returned from a lovely trip to Prague, the Czech Republic and Rome and Sorrento, Italy. Although I have visited Italy many times, and I am always impressed by its beauty, history, excellent food and fine design, the trip to Prague was an adventure for my bucket list.
My parents were born and raised in Poland, and survived their stays in various Nazi concentration camps. I was born in Bergen Belsen, in Germany. During the war Bergen Belsen was a concentration camp. In fact, it is famous for being the camp where Anne Frank died. After the war it was a relocation center for misplaced persons. After the war my parents, me, my father's sister Mary, and two of my father's cousins, emigrated to America. They represented the few survivors of their formerly large families. My father's other surviving sister, Gegna (Jean, remained in the Czech Republic (then known as Czecholosvakia)) as she had fallen in love with a Czech man, Rudy, and they married and raised two sons there. I only met her and her husband once when they came to America for my cousin's wedding. The Communist regime did not allow their children to come with them, so I never met my cousins. I have always wanted to meet my cousins, and I was able to meet my first cousin Stanislov ("Stan"), and his son, John on this trip. Unfortunately Stan's other son, Zybnek, died prematurely only months before while on a trip of an apparent genetic problem he wasn't aware of.
Not only were we generations apart, but the stories of their lives led me to believe we are almost a world apart in our lifestyles. They live in a small but beautiful area which is forested and has hiking trails and ski spots. Although they do not appear envious of the material wealth in America, when I mentioned we were traveling to Italy they stated they had only been there once, although it is a not a long drive there, and they had to bring their own food, or forage for it in farmers' fields. Their family raised animals for food and crops and were self-sufficient. They have memories of sleeping in an enclosure their family built, really a shack by our standards, in the summers. Yet they felt they were surrounded by love, happiness, and friends.
It made me think of where we come from and how far we have come, and how grateful we should be to live in America, where we live without fear of what we say, what religion we practice, being free to pick what schools we go to and what work we do. When I told a staffer at the hotel we stayed at in Prague that we have met members of this family twice, he was amazed that even met this part of our family twice in our lifetimes. My cousin Stan is the only Jewish person in his town of 10,000, his wife and children are not Jewish, and his son had not been told of the family history, to protect him it appears from anti-Semitism and Communism, and he was very curious about us and our lifestyles.
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Faye Riva Cohen, Esquire Law Office of Faye Riva Cohen, P.C. 2047 Locust Street Philadelphia, PA 19103 P: 215-563-7776 F: 215-563-9996 E: firstname.lastname@example.org U: www.fayerivacohen.com/ Blog: toughlawyerlady.wordpress.com/
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