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I Have Seen Their Faces

Frida, a Holocaust survivor in FSU (Photo: JDC/Vladimir Shraga)

Today, on Yom HaShoah (Holocaust Remembrance Day), we received this moving note from one of our partners who works closely with Holocaust survivors. We wanted to share it with you – we hope you will take a moment today to remember those who died during this terrible chapter in history, and to pray for those who survived, that they will be comforted and sustained during the twilight of their lives.

As I scanned the news, a headline popped out at me: For many Shoah survivors, effects of wartime starvation still a plague (The Times of Israel, May 4th, 2016). The article detailed the suffering of Holocaust survivors living in New York City. I nodded my head in recognition.

I know this story. I have heard it before. The scars, mental and physical, of the wartime years remain singed on the bodies and souls of those who lived through the years of exile, pain, and torture.

For over a year, I’ve been writing for The Fellowship about the lives of Holocaust survivors living in the former Soviet Union. These men and women – Frida from Chelyabinsk, Ukraine, Betya from Minsk, Majina from Mariupol, and countless others – lost parents and siblings, and had their childhood uprooted, growing up with the taste of fear.

As Israel marks Yom Hashoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day, I think of the Holocaust survivors still living in Eastern Ukraine, for whom the recent fighting has unearthed traumatic childhood memories. How hard it must be for them to again endure the sound of bombs and shells exploding, considering what they have already gone through.

The scope of the Holocaust, and its unimaginable horror, makes it difficult to comprehend. Six million people is too many people to picture. Children and teenagers gassed to death, a calculated killing machine – this type of premeditated cruelty is so foreign to the fabric of my life that I can’t fully internalize it.

But Frida, Betya, Majina – I have seen their faces, I have heard their stories, I have learned about their suffering, and I have seen their strength in enduring, in carrying on, and in perpetuating the memory of those they have lost.

- Simone Liss

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