Poland is the country where I was born – me and the protagonists of my stories. When I went there in the spring, after many years of absence, They came to me from the desolate yards, from houses, where other people live now… They descended to me down the stairs I know, and when I walked the streets, They looked at me from the windows of empty flats and houses. In parks and on Planty I saw Them walking in the shades of chestnut trees or sitting on benches soaked in the sun. Their children – me amongst them – are playing in the shades of lilac shrubs… Encountering Them was painful, since my longing for Them has not yet passed. I wanted to shake hands with Them, touch Their faces, but I couldn’t… Because They were – and They were not, because They are not.
Visits to Jewish cemeteries were harsh. Here not only my loved ones rose to meet me, but the entire nation. From the abyss, from buried graves, covered with wild greenery, they stretched their arms to me. Roots are expanding uncontrollably, entwining around the tombstones. Contorted stones are leaning, sinking in. Hebrew letters, unknown to Poland’s Sons – engraved in those tombstones; words of love and recognition, thanksgiving words, tributes, pain of separation, yearning for Jerusalem…
I will never forget you. You shall always remain on the pages of my books. I had been searching for a way to rescue you from the anonymous mass, to save you from oblivion. And then I found it: from the corners of my memory I am retrieving old, blurred paintings, putting them inside new frames and enlivening them with new colours. That way they will be more able to hold out. I would like to write in a similar way also about those who survived. I would want to stress that the desire for vengeance has long faded away, that we are not searching for revenge but for understanding, not for war but for peace…
Before the war I truly loved Cracow very much. I would repeatedly cross its length and breadth, keep visiting all my cousins, my aunt… After the war my Cracow no longer existed but it kept on living within me, living intensely through all those years of silence. It was my inner thing, my inner life. On the outside, however, there was something completely different; everyday life, hard work, struggle to belong, to exist.
Translated by Paulina Ohar-Zima
In this house was born Miriam Akavia, née Weinfeld, (20 Nov 1927, Kraków – 16 Jan 2015, Tel Aviv), Israeli-Cracovian writer and translator, former president of the Israel-Poland Friendship Association and Janusz Korczak Association. Spent her childhood in Kraków, where she attended the Hebrew school. She went through the Holocaust hell: hid in Lviv on “Aryan papers,” returned to the Kraków ghetto to be with her father. She was interned in camps in Płaszów, Auschwitz, and Bergen Belsen, and lost her entire family except for her sister. After convalescence with the Red Cross in Sweden, she emigrated to Israel in 1946. She studied in Tel Aviv and began writing after 30 years, when “she was born for the third time.” She wrote several books that were translated into many languages, e.g. An End to Childhood, My Own Vineyard. Recipient of many awards, including the Yad Vashem Prize and the Order of Merit of the Republic of Poland. She was closely affiliated with Kraków till the end of her life.