Old Friends

” On our way to Zawiercie we had stopped in Sosnowiecz to see Mania Orbachowa, a friend of my mother’s from before the war. Her apartment overlooked a busy street with railroad tracks in the distance where trains carried coal across Upper Silesia, the region in southwest Poland encompassing Cracow, Zawiercie, and Auschwitz. Mania lived alone with her memories and had assumed that we would stay with her, even preparing her own bed for us to sleep in. But we declined to inconvenience her, choosing instead to stay in a tired Communist-era hotel with a casino I was barred from entering because I wore blue jeans.
In the fading light of that day I photographed Mania’s bed, the tired covers turned back so carefully. The dull wallpaper in her bedroom was torn and dry glue showed at the seams. It felt as if the clock of her life had stopped, our visit a silent gray dream from the past. My mother and her friend sat together and spoke loudly, their words punctuated by muffled wails and tears. I wandered around quietly in the other rooms of the apartment, looking through my camera while trying to understand the emotions I was hearing, feelings spoken in the language I had heard as a child but was now so distant from.” 


December 18, 1945
Dear Franusia!
I received your letter an hour ago and you can only imagine what it meant for me. I felt, deep in my soul, that maybe it was you. I am alone, in Paris now, living here for over half a year since American soldiers found me dying in Buchenwald and thinking that I was French, sent me to Paris.

Those words form the first paragraph of the first letter my father sent my mother after learning through a small newspaper ad that she was looking for him. She had been taken to Brussels after surviving a death march from Auschwitz to Ravensbrück and within six months began looking for family and for the man who stole her heart.
Their reunion in January 1946 was the beginning of a powerful love story, albeit one that was tested and challenged by the chaos in the American immigration system directly after World War II. His letter is but one of dozens between them included in Sweet Noise: Love in Wartime, my book about their lives before, during and after the Holocaust.

Hotel Lutetia

On April 11,1945 my father was in a hole in the floor of a latrine at Buchenwald when an American soldier (the first black man he had ever seen) kicked him to see if he was alive. Weighing only 95lbs, he cried out in French and so was mistakenly taken to Paris with 114 French survivors. Those men were housed at the Hotel Lutetia at the corner of Boulevard Raspail and Rue de Sèvres in the heart of Saint-German-des-Prés where today the nightly rates start at $800. Though Polish by birth, he chose to remain in as a Frenchman thinking that he might more easily recover life in the country where he had gone to university.
In 1985 this plaque was permanently affixed to the building to commemorate this moment in history.
This is just one small moment from the hundreds that are revealed in Sweet Noise: Love in Wartime, my book about my parents’ lives before, during, and after the Holocaust. A huge heartfelt thanks to all who have pledged, and please share this Kickstarter link with friends and family. http://kck.st/2UYTmfy