Psycho-Babble Faith Thread 974872

Shown: posts 1 to 22 of 22. This is the beginning of the thread.

 

PartlyCloudy speaks up

Posted by PartlyCloudy on December 27, 2010, at 11:48:33

My story is one of misplaced antisemitism and how it affected my mother and her family. It takes place in Latvia, on the Baltic Sea coast in Europe. Its a rather common story from the era, and its left a lasting legacy.

My grandparents were Anna and Jacob Greenbergs. They met while students at university in St. Petersburg, Russia. My grandmother Anna was trained to be a nurse, and Jacob became a teacher of mathematics. They lived in the outskirts of Riga, Latvia and raised their family there. My mother Maija ("Maya") was one of 5 children.

They were a Lutheran family. Many Latvians have last names that sound similar to Jewish ones. If you Google "Jacob Greenbergs" you will not find any trace of my grandfather, nor of any other member of my mother's family; and this is why. (Thats why I havent bothered to change their name here, either. Good luck finding out any relevant information, because there isnt any.)

Latvia is one of the Baltic countries that for centuries had been part of the Hanseatic League. When the Russian revolution occurred, Latvia became part of the U.S.S.R. and lost its independence. My grandparents adapted to the new regime and kept a low profile, particularly my grandfather Jacob, who as an educator was considered a member of the bourgeoisie. Then the second World War began, and a new threat entered their lived - the approach of Nazi Germany.

My grandparents realized that with a family name such as theirs, regardless of their religious beliefs, they would become targets for the enemy that was inexorably making its way across the continent to their door. In order to safeguard the family in entirety, a momentous decision was made: the family name would be altered. No longer would we be the Greenbergs, which means "green" or "forested" village. The name was changed to K******, which has a similar meaning, but does not appear to be a Jewish name. All the family documents bearing the name Greenbergs were destroyed - everything. There are NO records surviving bearing my family's original name.

World War II meant my family became Displaced Persons as they sought safety from not one but two enemies - the Soviets and the Nazis. The family traveled across Europe westward from camp to camp, with only their clothes and a very few belongings salvaged from their native land. Near the end of the war, the family was in a DP camp in Berlin. My uncle T****, who was of fighting age, was gang pressed by the Nazis in a desperate attempt to fend off the Soviets as they came from the east. The Germans presented the Russians as the greater enemy. Who was more evil - the Russians who had taken my grandparents' homestead, and immediately turned it over to other occupants and threatened the family based on my grandfather's teaching job?, or the Nazis, who would have killed them all as Jews if they had not changed their name? My uncle suffered terrible wounds as a grenade he tried to lob at a Russian tank blew up in his hands. He recovered in a German Army hospital unit as my mother and her family put themselves in great danger travelling through Berlin in order to visit him as he recuperated.

All I have to remind me of my family's original name is a piece of worked linen that my grandmother embroidered with her initials on it: AG. I grew up not knowing who AG was, until a few years ago when my own mother shared the family history with me. I always thought up until then that we were (and had been) the K****** family. I had no idea of this other legacy that had been lost forever. Lost because of racial hatred and misplaced antisemitism. I never understood the melancholy that hung over the family: none of the war experiences were ever discussed in front of us children.

I never knew my grandmother Anna (Greenbergs) K******, as she died not long after the family was resettled in England after the war. They, along with so many other hundreds of thousands of Latvian nationals, were not ever able to return to their homes. My grandfather, Jacob, was shattered by his life experience. He struggled in the English-speaking culture and worked on a pig farm, and then in a brick factory. Such an irony that the fine, educated Latvian was only able to provide for his family as an unskilled laborer in capitalistic societies.

*************************************************

That is my personal story. It's the reason why I have lived in the United States for so long, yet have refused to give up my Canadian citizenship that my mother treasures so much. It's the reason that I do not tolerate antisemitism when I see it. It's the reason I try to listen closely and read carefully when I sense that there is injustice going on in front of me. It's a very big part of how I define myself; someone who has had an entire family history erased for the sake of mistaken identity.

Its why I have read and reread Lou Pilders threads where he takes issue with what he has read here, recently and in years past. For me, tolerance and acceptance of others beliefs and faith is becoming more important as I more fully comprehend where *I* come from. Im a product of an antisemitic act - a fabricated family name, and a vanished background, apart from a single piece of table linen.

pc

 

Re: PartlyCloudy speaks up PartlyCloudy

Posted by gardenergirl on December 27, 2010, at 13:33:08

In reply to PartlyCloudy speaks up, posted by PartlyCloudy on December 27, 2010, at 11:48:33

Thank you for sharing that heartbreaking story. I'm so glad that your mother shared this history with you. It's so important. And I'm so glad you shared it with us.

You're a treasure.

gg

 

Re: PartlyCloudy speaks up gardenergirl

Posted by PartlyCloudy on December 27, 2010, at 15:52:38

In reply to Re: PartlyCloudy speaks up PartlyCloudy, posted by gardenergirl on December 27, 2010, at 13:33:08

I had pieced everything together some time ago, but have been watching with interest (and much more) as a friend has been exploring her own past.

Then it all had to be written down before I lost the words, you know? These boards are my virtual memoirs in places.

pc

 

Re: PartlyCloudy speaks up

Posted by sigismund on December 29, 2010, at 4:59:36

In reply to PartlyCloudy speaks up, posted by PartlyCloudy on December 27, 2010, at 11:48:33

Latvia was a particularly difficult place during that period, but so many places in Eastern Europe were. It is worrying that this sort of thing can occur at all. It reminds me of the words at the beginning of one of Nadezhda Mandelstam's books, about how her generation spent its time surrying this way and that between Hitler and Stalin.

 

Re: PartlyCloudy speaks up sigismund

Posted by PartlyCloudy on December 29, 2010, at 7:47:43

In reply to Re: PartlyCloudy speaks up, posted by sigismund on December 29, 2010, at 4:59:36

> Latvia was a particularly difficult place during that period, but so many places in Eastern Europe were. It is worrying that this sort of thing can occur at all. It reminds me of the words at the beginning of one of Nadezhda Mandelstam's books, about how her generation spent its time surrying this way and that between Hitler and Stalin.

Frankly, I can't believe it's taken me this long to put all the aunts' and uncles' stories together, and within the common threads, plus reading historical accounts put it all together. My mother was just a girl when it happened, but the sense of abandonment - of home, and one by one, of her siblings as they sought sponsors and resettled across the globe, makes my own experience come into focus more clearly.

As for my religious beliefs, although I was sent to an English Protestant school as a child in Quebec, I can't say anything really stuck with me there. I know I closely watched my mother's reaction any time there was a programme on TV about the Jews during WWII, and her horror was not only real, for years I was convinced that her family had been Jewish but had hidden their faith in the sake of safety.

This was not the case, but the resonance was very real and true. My mother was instead seeing those images and listening to the stories of Jewish experiences, and thinking that her family could easily have been included in the extermination.

As I said, our story was not at all unique. And it's been replayed over and over again since.

It's nice for you to visit here, Sig.

 

Re: PartlyCloudy speaks up

Posted by sigismund on December 29, 2010, at 14:41:58

In reply to Re: PartlyCloudy speaks up sigismund, posted by PartlyCloudy on December 29, 2010, at 7:47:43

My family were straight anglos, but at the table from time to time my parents would allude to the period and wonder a little about it in shorthand, as people of that generation often did when speaking of it. My mother's best friend married a man who, when a boy, was one of the Jewish children who were sipped to the UK out of Vienna, who then of course fought against the Germans. His family completely perished. And my uncle fought for the RAF for some time in the bombing of Germany. I can remember my mother talking about a man from Germany or Austria doing the handkiss and she saying 'oh, we don't do that here', and I don't know why, but just from that one comment, I felt all this inherited sorrow (in which I believe), even though our family was so tangentially involved, and I have thought about that sorrow for years.

 

Re: PartlyCloudy speaks up sigismund

Posted by PartlyCloudy on December 29, 2010, at 19:08:22

In reply to Re: PartlyCloudy speaks up, posted by sigismund on December 29, 2010, at 14:41:58

> My family were straight anglos, but at the table from time to time my parents would allude to the period and wonder a little about it in shorthand, as people of that generation often did when speaking of it. My mother's best friend married a man who, when a boy, was one of the Jewish children who were sipped to the UK out of Vienna, who then of course fought against the Germans. His family completely perished. And my uncle fought for the RAF for some time in the bombing of Germany. I can remember my mother talking about a man from Germany or Austria doing the handkiss and she saying 'oh, we don't do that here', and I don't know why, but just from that one comment, I felt all this inherited sorrow (in which I believe), even though our family was so tangentially involved, and I have thought about that sorrow for years.

Inherited sorrow. Yes. One of the most intriguing things to happen was that my mother and two of her sisters each independently were able to visit their family homestead after the breakup of the USSR.

My mother's sister A*** was as pleased as a child to see the property so well tended and generations of a (culturally) Russian family had made it their own. She was welcomed in with open arms; she took the Russians through the house and told stories about how the house was utilized when they lived there.

My mother's other sister, B***** visited several years ago. There's a photograph of her looking on to the property from the fence that encircles it. She looks sad, angry, and bitter. She did not approach the people living inside.

My mother had a similar experience to sister A****, and is in sporadic contact with the family.


I found a book, finally, called "DP's: Europe's Displaced Persons" and passed it on to my mother with trepidation. She read while I was visiting with her and it temporarily opened the floodgates into the past for her and I. It was the only time she has ever spoken of her experiences, and she talked as if in a catharsis. After the book was finished, she buttoned her lip and has not spoken of them since.

(Which was when I thought that *I* needed to write this stuff down.)

 

Re: PartlyCloudy speaks up

Posted by sigismund on December 30, 2010, at 3:17:01

In reply to Re: PartlyCloudy speaks up sigismund, posted by PartlyCloudy on December 29, 2010, at 19:08:22

There's a wonderful song by Bruce Cockburn called 'The Rose Above the Sky' which contains the line 'You carty the weight of inherited sorrow from your first day till you die', and if I knew how Japanese youtube addresses worked I would give you the link.
It is a very beautiful somewhat mystical song.

It is a sign of the sensitiveness and the absorptive powers of children that these things are so quickly deciphered and incorporated.

 

Re: PartlyCloudy speaks up sigismund

Posted by PartlyCloudy on December 30, 2010, at 7:59:34

In reply to Re: PartlyCloudy speaks up, posted by sigismund on December 30, 2010, at 3:17:01

Thank you, I will look it up. I really like Bruce Cockburn's work. Will try to post any link I find here.

pc

 

Re: PartlyCloudy speaks up, Bruce Cockburn, etc.

Posted by PartlyCloudy on December 30, 2010, at 8:26:52

In reply to Re: PartlyCloudy speaks up sigismund, posted by PartlyCloudy on December 30, 2010, at 7:59:34

> Thank you, I will look it up. I really like Bruce Cockburn's work. Will try to post any link I find here.
>
> pc

I found the lyrics:

Something jewelled slips away
Round the next bend with a splash
Laughing at the hands I hold out
Only air within their grasp
All you can do is praise the razor
For the fineness of the slash

'Til the Rose above the sky
Opens
And the light behind the sun
Takes all

Gutless arrogance and rage
Burn apart the best of tries
You carry the weight of inherited sorrow
From your first day till you die
Toward that hilltop where the road
Forever becomes one with the sky

'Til the Rose above the sky
Opens
And the light behind the sun
Takes all

Ozone on the midnight wind
Got me thinking of the sea
And the mercies of the currents that brought
Me to you and you to me
And in the silence at the heart of things
Where all true meetings come to be

'Til the Rose above the sky
Opens
And the light behind the sun
Takes all

********************************************

The video on YouTube is a static shot of the 1979 album cover with the beautiful song playing.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d_NhmBB33Bs

Thank you, Sig, for pointing me towards this song.

********************************************

It feels that I have spent an awful lot of time thinking of my faith in terms of my family's past. It's led me to become exploratory in nature. As a teen I made it my job to visit churches of many different faiths and listen to each underlying message. I was not seeking truth or resonance, but the story that all these people were listening to and believing.

I've never, ever, taken issue with what each individual believes. My mother was instrumental in teaching me tolerance and acceptance. After all, we (my immediate family) were always in a position of being minorities wherever we lived. The same is true of where I am today, politically speaking. So I am used to keeping a low profile and listening, listening. My faith is deep inside me; it gives me strength and I draw upon it every day.

It concerns me greatly when I do not see such tolerance practiced beyond my own self. What can I do but act from my principles and hope that others might see some wisdom in what I do? At the same time, I keep myself as safe as I can. I have a member of my family who is studying at a seminary; he is a good young man. We don't "talk" religion because he considers me to be uneducated, and this is true of my formal education. Irony.

pc


 

Re: PartlyCloudy speaks up, Bruce Cockburn, etc.

Posted by sigismund on December 30, 2010, at 11:00:56

In reply to Re: PartlyCloudy speaks up, Bruce Cockburn, etc., posted by PartlyCloudy on December 30, 2010, at 8:26:52

I have a family member who is studying Buddhism in a monastery in Boudanath in Kathmandu. He is very attached to@Tibetan Buddhism, and I give him Toaist books to subvert him. He is actually learning Tibetan which will be a challenge.

 

Re: PartlyCloudy speaks up

Posted by sigismund on December 30, 2010, at 15:16:19

In reply to PartlyCloudy speaks up, posted by PartlyCloudy on December 27, 2010, at 11:48:33

>When the Russian revolution occurred, Latvia became part of the U.S.S.R. and lost its independence.

I wonder if it was before? I think the Bolshevik's just managed to create the USSR out of the Tsarist empire.

>I never understood the melancholy that hung over the family: none of the war experiences were ever discussed in front of us children.

Yes

> My grandfather, Jacob, was shattered by his life experience. He struggled in the English-speaking culture and worked on a pig farm, and then in a brick factory. Such an irony that the fine, educated Latvian was only able to provide for his family as an unskilled laborer in capitalistic societies.


Yeah. Just so sad.

Antisemitism seems to be buit into the gospels, and this (for me) translated into that relatively benign anglo antisemitism. In fact, I could never understand it which is one reason I made a point of doing so and reading about it. I couldn't understand it because I came from a country where the prejudice was entirely (of course not, but anyway) based on skin colour (and there was class, and voice tone and all the other things people have to prove they are better than anyone else). I thought it was interesting and obviously true when German propoganda said it would have been much easier to tell who were the jews if they were green. The despised people when I grew up were the aborigines, because their land had been stolen and they had to be worthless. I could not understand it, and neither could my parents so sometimes they would say 'Was he mad? He must have been mad.' FWIW, Stalin did not agree, noting with great interest the lack of a mass revolutionary movement against Hitler.

 

Re: PartlyCloudy speaks up sigismund

Posted by PartlyCloudy on December 31, 2010, at 15:01:23

In reply to Re: PartlyCloudy speaks up, posted by sigismund on December 30, 2010, at 15:16:19

The Times got the details right in my uncle's obituary. I was fortunate enough to attend his investiture in Wales days before I was deported to the United States.

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/comment/obituaries/article420963.ece

pc

 

Re: PartlyCloudy speaks up

Posted by sigismund on December 31, 2010, at 19:58:31

In reply to Re: PartlyCloudy speaks up sigismund, posted by PartlyCloudy on December 31, 2010, at 15:01:23

There is a range called the Hartz Mountains in Tasmania. That same issue has been significant there. The state governmentand the unions (very misguidedly) opposed the efforts of the hated greenies to stop clear felling of old growth native forests for woodchip to Japan. Once the site had been clearfelled and some of the timber taken away, the rest was burned completely and replanted with the addition of 1080 poison to kill anything that moved and might eat the new growth in the ensuing animal famine. Now, this is valuable cabinet timber turned into toothpicks and the area left looking like it had been bombed so some people could make some money and so some people could say they were not being pushed around by greenies. So naturally, I read your uncles ideas with great interest. The government was really conforming to the marxist idea that the government is the executive committee of the ruling class. It has been a sort of mafia state.

 

Re: PartlyCloudy speaks up sigismund

Posted by PartlyCloudy on January 1, 2011, at 10:55:23

In reply to Re: PartlyCloudy speaks up, posted by sigismund on December 31, 2010, at 19:58:31

> There is a range called the Hartz Mountains in Tasmania. That same issue has been significant there. The state governmentand the unions (very misguidedly) opposed the efforts of the hated greenies to stop clear felling of old growth native forests for woodchip to Japan. Once the site had been clearfelled and some of the timber taken away, the rest was burned completely and replanted with the addition of 1080 poison to kill anything that moved and might eat the new growth in the ensuing animal famine. Now, this is valuable cabinet timber turned into toothpicks and the area left looking like it had been bombed so some people could make some money and so some people could say they were not being pushed around by greenies. So naturally, I read your uncles ideas with great interest. The government was really conforming to the marxist idea that the government is the executive committee of the ruling class. It has been a sort of mafia state.

I say with no hesitation that my uncle was brilliant. I saw for myself the devastation that coal mining wrought upon the beauty of Wales when I was a wee one, and I got to see, 35+ years later, the effect my uncle's work had on rebuilding and managing the land. He was so wise in his practices.

(Let's see, I've allowed this thread to go rather off the Faith subject. I will interject a random note about my uncle that might bring us back.)

I remember that my uncle was so quiet in his walks through the woods surrounding his home that deer would readily approach him without fear. He was not a hunter that I know of. I thought that he had been through so much with his war time experiences that he had a stillness about him that was magical, or even holy. (I would not ever dream of speaking of this to my mother in fear of upsetting her.)

pc

 

Re: PartlyCloudy speaks up +raquo; PartlyCloudy

Posted by sigismund on January 1, 2011, at 16:28:57

In reply to Re: PartlyCloudy speaks up sigismund, posted by PartlyCloudy on January 1, 2011, at 10:55:23

I was thinking that I would have to do a rephrase about the politcs that lead to so much destruction in Tasmania, but I was very affected with the truth of what your uncle believed about woodland managemnment and I allowed my anger at what has been done to Tasmania to overcome my respect for the civility rules.

 

Re: PartlyCloudy speaks up +raquo; PartlyCloudy sigismund

Posted by PartlyCloudy on January 2, 2011, at 8:19:15

In reply to Re: PartlyCloudy speaks up +raquo; PartlyCloudy, posted by sigismund on January 1, 2011, at 16:28:57

> I was thinking that I would have to do a rephrase about the politcs that lead to so much destruction in Tasmania, but I was very affected with the truth of what your uncle believed about woodland managemnment and I allowed my anger at what has been done to Tasmania to overcome my respect for the civility rules.

Once again you've admonished yourself admirably, Sig.
(Though I doubt this thread has any other readers who might have taken offense or know very much about the politics in Tasmania. As I most definitely do not.)

Happy 2011 to you.
pc

 

Re: PartlyCloudy speaks up +raquo; PartlyCloudy

Posted by sigismund on January 2, 2011, at 15:21:22

In reply to Re: PartlyCloudy speaks up +raquo; PartlyCloudy sigismund, posted by PartlyCloudy on January 2, 2011, at 8:19:15

Any Tasmanians likely to be here would have been delighted to read it, although shareholders of Gunns may have been less pleased.

To give you an idea of the politics her is a picture of Lake Pedder before it was flooded for hydropower in the 70s.
That was the start of the green movement politically in Australia

http://www.snowgumpress.com.au/images/LakePedder.JPG

Happy New Year PC

 

Re: PartlyCloudy speaks up +raquo; PartlyCloudy sigismund

Posted by PartlyCloudy on January 2, 2011, at 16:51:24

In reply to Re: PartlyCloudy speaks up +raquo; PartlyCloudy, posted by sigismund on January 2, 2011, at 15:21:22

> Any Tasmanians likely to be here would have been delighted to read it, although shareholders of Gunns may have been less pleased.
>
> To give you an idea of the politics her is a picture of Lake Pedder before it was flooded for hydropower in the 70s.
> That was the start of the green movement politically in Australia
>
> http://www.snowgumpress.com.au/images/LakePedder.JPG
>
> Happy New Year PC
>
>

Ooh, reminds me of Halifax beach in Scotland on one of the Inner Hebredian islands, I forget which one. Stunningly beautiful.

 

Re: PartlyCloudy speaks up +raquo; PartlyCloudy

Posted by sigismund on January 4, 2011, at 0:20:35

In reply to Re: PartlyCloudy speaks up +raquo; PartlyCloudy sigismund, posted by PartlyCloudy on January 2, 2011, at 16:51:24

That whole lake,the magic white sands on the shore, and the whole area are now under 20 metres or so of water.

We went there long after it was flooded.
I knew of it of course but was somewhat innocent and rented accommodation at Lake Pedder Chalet.
When we got there we drove into an asphalt quadrangle with a petrol bowser with a flat roof on top of it, with an industrial prefab building on three sides.
It would have housed several hundred people.
There was nothing for 50 miles in any direction.
My wife and I looked at each other.
Is this it?
I'm not getting out of the car.
Why not?
Because I'm embarrassed to be here.
All you have to do is go in the door and check in.
I'm embarrassed for the person behind the counter, pretending to work at a chalet.
Don't be silly.
Where's the whisky?

Well, we eventually made it in and it became apparent that this was the building which housed the workers who dammed Lake Pedder years before. It smelt of insecticide and had taps that spouted huge flows of water, unlike those ecological showers that are almost useless that you find everywhere else in Tasmania.

 

Re: PartlyCloudy speaks up +raquo; sigismund

Posted by PartlyCloudy on January 4, 2011, at 8:06:17

In reply to Re: PartlyCloudy speaks up +raquo; PartlyCloudy, posted by sigismund on January 4, 2011, at 0:20:35

Goodness. (I think I would have behaved the same way.)

 

Re: Racism PartlyCloudy

Posted by Shes_InItForTheMoney on September 25, 2011, at 12:57:32

In reply to PartlyCloudy speaks up, posted by PartlyCloudy on December 27, 2010, at 11:48:33


Thank you for sharing your family's painful story.
I want to share a bit of my extended family's story
because it is one of reconciliation and a good reason to have Faith amid racism.

My sister is Roman Catholic, and my brother-in-law, her husband, is a Polish Yiddish Jew. His (my brother-in-law we will call "B") parents spent time at Dachau, and his Dad died just after he was born here in Canada from injuries he sustained from the Camp. His Mom had a little bit of money she and her husband previously had made working 3 jobs. The owner of the building they where living in started up a little variety store, which B's Mom worked feverishly in. She eventually had enough money for a down payment on the store when the owner wanted to retire. "B" and his brother worked in the variety store also, and their Mom helped save up enough money to put the boys through college.

Now, they had it very tough when they first moved to Canada and Toronto at the end of WWII. Anti-semitism was widespread. But, the boys kept their Faith through college. "B" went on to be a very successful office salesperson, and his brother in broadcasting. "B" was my sister's highschool sweetheart, and very much a part of my family history. I learn't about racism at a very young age, as my Mom was very well educated and my Dad had sailed the world in the Navy. They gave me part of my moral compass, and "B" went on to become like a best-friend to me. He told me his family stories, and I became one of the most vocal anti-racists imaginable. This was really intensified when I went to University.

But the amazing thing is how "graceful" "B"'s Mom is, despite living through so much hate and fear. She say's that the fear never really leaves her. But she feels the only 'shield' against racism is love and positive regard. So many people of different types, including homosexuals, Gypsies, Christians, communists, capitalists, where targeted in both the USSR and Nazi Germany. Around 20 million people where also killed in the Great Purges. That is about the size of a small country.

Just a couple of main points, and that is discrimination on any part is blatantly wrong. And incredible and resilient people can come out of such terror, and become even greater people. And racism is still widespread. Look on how horribly Canada treats it's Native people, and the terrible and horrific treatment of African-Americans. I'd like to think my signature says it all.

Peace,
Jay


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