A Child Survives, A Child Learns

Article excerpt

I was taking Nicki to visit my grandmother, who lives only five houses down the street from my house. This beloved curly, black-haired "third grandchild" is the joy of my grandmother's life.

We approached her house, and my grandmother's eyes gleamed with excitement. The anticipation of our visit was further evident in her broad and loving smile. As my grandmother greeted us, Nicki jumped lovingly into her arms. My grandmother was bombarded by wet kisses and a perpetually wagging tail softly brushing against her cheek from this overly affectionate poodle.

Lala, as I call my grandmother, let out a small giggle and then greeted me endearingly with the special nickname she has for me, "Hello, Shefele, how are you?" Her Shefele, or little lamb, responded with a peck on her cheek and a warm hug. Like a bolt of lightening, Nicki ran through the house and headed straight for the basement. As we headed down the narrow basement staircase in pursuit, the pine-scented wooden panels filled me with a sense of warmth and security.

Like a magnet attracted to the opposite pole, Nicki situated herself next to a small table on which an old box was resting. Lala was flushed and commented on the dog's sense of intuition and intelligence.

"Nicki is no ordinary pet. She reminds me so much of my childhood dog, Rex."

Curious, I asked, "What kind of dog was he?"

Lala hesitantly replied, "Rex was the most wonderful black mutt."

Sensing much pain in her response, I pressed further, "Tell me more."

Lala took me by the hand and we sat down at the small wooden table where she began to tell me about her childhood in Poland during the Second World War.

"Rex was one of the first victims to fall by the brutal hands of the Nazi murderers. I was only ten years old when they viciously shot her in front of my own eyes. Little did I know that several weeks later I would be forced into hiding with both my parents for three very long years," she said softly, as she stared at the square patterns of the tiled floor.

I sat patiently and quietly absorbed her incredible story of strength and resolve.

My grandmother continued, "A righteous gentile farmer agreed to offer us refuge in a tiny grain cellar. We were hidden underground with no outside contact for what seemed to be an eternity. The kind farmer wanted to be sure that at least one Jewish girl would survive the atrocities of the Holocaust to tell the world what really happened. …