( Advanced Level )
Have you ever thought about the things that bring you the most joy? Or a sense of peace? Malina has. For her, it is walking down the path by her grandparent’s home, with the smell of autumn in the air. The trees are getting ready for the winter months ahead. Their leaves turn brilliant shades of orange and yellow before they fall from the tree leaving the trees barren.
Malina’s grandparents fled Poland to Romania with only a few personal belongings. They, along with thousands of others, walked and boarded ships to any destination as long as it was far away from the invasion. After two years without a country to call home, they settled in upstate New York by 1941.
The trip was arduous, testing every fiber of their being. Some days they felt they wouldn’t make it. Going days without food or rest. Going forward day by day, hour by hour. With the grace of a higher power, they made it.
Malina remembers these stories but at the time she was too young to really understand. It wasn’t until she talked to her mom to great lengths that she began to understand the journey her grandparents made during a time when their own country was in turmoil.
As an adult, Malina fully understands the hardships and sacrifices her grandmother had talked about every time she refused to eat vegetables or drink all her milk at dinner. “We were lucky to have a decent meal when we first came to America and here you want to waste food?
Malina turned to writing to fill her days once she retired. Her first book was about her grandparents. What they did allowed future generations of their family to live without fear of persecution.
If you had the opportunity to meet Martha or Abraham, you would never know that their lives had been in disarray back in Poland leaving them no choice but to leave. They never told others what they had seen or felt. The two were well-loved in the community and were always willing to lend a helping hand to anyone in need.
When they passed, a year apart from one another, the community felt a great loss. The two used to volunteer at the local food bank. On many occasions, they cooked meals at their own home for holidays. Making sure no one went without a warm meal. Malina’s mom had told her they didn’t want others to feel what they had felt going days without a warm meal.
Malina remembers her grandparent’s kindness and patience when it came to her. As an only child and spoiled she was used to getting her way but this was another story when it came to them and how she often tried to push their buttons. They never lost their patience insisting she does things as they said.
Despite her grandparent’s past, they had shown much love to everyone and everything around them. Malina was about nine, she thinks,, when she went to the grocery store with her grandmother. As they stood in line to pay for what they put in their cart her grandmother had eavesdropped on the conversation between a mother and her daughter who were ahead of them in line.
“Mommy can I have a candy bar?” the cute little girl with blonde curls had asked. “No honey. Sorry. I only have enough for these few things. Daddy doesn’t get paid until next month. Remember he just started his new job.”
This conversation tugged on her grandmother’s heartstrings and she interrupted and asked the little girl, “Which candy would you like?” The little girl looked up at her mother and saw her nod that it was ok to answer.
“Can I have this one?” Martha smiled and gave the girl the candy then quickly handed the cashier money to pay for it. The cashier happily accepted the money and mouthed the words. “Thank You.” and smiled.
Each night Malina sits down at her la top to work on her novel paying homage to her grandparents. With a cup of coffee sitting beside her, the words flow through her fingertips as she remembers all the beautiful memories.
She was finally on her last chapter. Like her grandmother, she didn’t want to go into great detail about her grandparent’s life in Poland during the latter years before they left. Malina felt many knew of this dreadful time and felt there was no need to relive it. Instead, her focus was on Martha and Abraham the immigrants, and the life they created for themselves.
As she typed the last words she thought of her grandparents deboarding the ship and setting foot on American soil for the first time. Absorbing the new surroundings and finally feeling a sense of peace.
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Remembering our past, whether it is our own personal past or that of our ancestors, gives us a sense of who we are and why.
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brilliant – adjective: very bright and radiant
barren – adjective: lifeless
fled – verb: run away from a place or situation of danger
invasion – noun: an unwelcome intrusion into another’s domain
arduous – adjective: involving or requiring strenuous effort; difficult and tiring
every fiber of their being – idiom: with all of one’s effort
journey – noun: traveling from one place to another
turmoil – noun: confusion, or uncertainty
hardships – noun: suffering
sacrifices – noun: the act of giving up something that you want to keep especially in order to get or do something else or to help someone
decent – adjective: acceptable
disarray – noun: disorganization
lend a helping hand – idiom: assistance
spoiled – adjective: allowed to do or have anything that they (child) want
pushed their buttons – idiom: to do or say something just to make someone angry or upset
eavesdropped – verb: secretly listen to a conversation
tugged on (her) grandmother’s) heartstrings – idiom: feel strong emotions, usually sadness or pity
homage – noun: special honor or respect
dreadful – adjective: involving great suffering, fear, or unhappiness
relive – verb: live through (an experience or feeling, especially an unpleasant one) again
immigrants – noun: a person who comes to live permanently in a foreign country
deboarding – verb: to leave a plane, train or ship
Question ( s ):
Do you remember any stories told by your grandparents or great grandparents?