By: Anna Kos
A few months ago, I had the privilege to meet Member of Knesset, Avi Dichter.
Political opinions aside, meeting him was about feeling connected to my family.
You see, my grandparents and Avi’s parents were from the same shtetl (“shtetl” is what villages were called in Europe before the Holocaust).
Rozyszcze was a small village in Poland (what is now Ukraine) before the Holocaust. The community was small, yet vibrant.
After the ashes of the Holocaust, those who survived found each other and stuck by one another. Avi’s mother was very close friends with my great-aunt Chana, who moved to Israel in 1945.
Chana was my inspiration to be a community leader and a strong independent woman.
Avi came in April to Canada to speak to speak to several communities on behalf of JNF. I saw this as an opportunity to share with him a photo I have of his mother and Chana.
Naturally we connected and we spoke about what the shtetl still means to us today. We kept in touch afterwards and about a week ago I remembered he mentioned that every August there is a memorial for Rozyszcze near Tel Aviv. I had to go. For me it was a way to feel connected to my grandparents who never made it to Israel.
The ceremony was in Givatayim in a building owned by Yad Vashem. I was shocked with how packed the room was. Over 50 people with some sort of connection to Rozyszcze. Back home in Toronto, we were lucky if there were 20 people at the memorial service.
I definitely stood out to everyone – being the “newbie” and all. The whole service was in Hebrew – but it was worth it.
They showed photos and recounted different family stories of survival and loss.
I may have not understood it all – but it was the closest I felt to my grandparents in a very, very long time.
After it was over, I walked out into the lobby and a lady approached me saying that she heard I am from Canada and wanted to ask me a few questions.
It turns out that her father probably went to the same class as my grandfather before the war started. We exchanged contact information and promised to stay in touch.
We may not have a way to prove that our relatives were friends but the historical connection was important to us both.
Years can go by, relatives may pass away, but as long as you remember where you come from – the memories will never die.
I am and always will be, a Rozyszczer.