Zawiercie Cemetery

When my mother returned to Europe in 1947, first to see my father in Paris, then to visit Zawiercie, she placed a new stone on her aunt Zosia’s grave. Forty-six years later I photographed her in that cemetery, clutching a few flowers and gesturing toward where she remembered Zosia’s resting place to be. She had arrived at this moment so certain of the grave’s location that instinct propelled her movements, and where the bottom of her dress blends with the undergrowth she seems to float, melting in the background and creating an almost audible rustling. But time and memory betrayed my mother in that place, and our efforts to find the grave went unrewarded.
Though we visited on a sunny day, with the light glaring hard above the canopy of trees, the glow inside the cemetery was soft, the light barely trespassing its boundaries. Ivy flooded the ground, poised to soon engulf the land and overwhelm any visual link to the past. Once proud tombstones testifying to centuries of Jewish life and death were now at the mercy of the whims of nature, like the pitch and yaw of tiny boats in a raging sea.