Andy Golebiowski sent me an article from the Am Pol Eagle entitled "WWII Survivors, Families Commemorate All Souls Day." Here's the picture by photographer Peter Sloane that accompanied the piece:
It brought back a lot of memories. All Souls Day was always a holy day that I felt deeply. In Poland the day was important. People would take candles and flowers and visit the cemeteries where their family and friends were buried. They would say prayers for the souls of their mothers and fathers, their grandfathers and grandmothers, the children who had died.
It was different in America. My parents had lost so many of their family members and friends, but there were no cemeteries we could visit to find their graves. The loved ones my parents lost were buried in Germany and in Poland, even in Russia. They were buried in graves my parents would never see again, and some of those graves no one would ever see. They were unmarked, lost. Sometimes, people had died where they stood, and their bodies were left there by the Germans or the Russians.
My parents didn't visit cemeteries on All Soul's day, but they did grieve. There was a heavy leaden grayness that hung over everything that day, and not all the candy I had collected on Halloween could lighten it.
Here's a poem from Lightning and Ashes about my mother's grief. It's about when she was taken to Germany by the Nazis and left behind her dead mother and dead sister and her dead sister's baby.
My mother cried for a week, first in the boxcars
then in the camps. Her friends said, “Tekla,
don’t cry, the Germans will shoot you
and leave you in the field,” but she couldn’t stop.
Even when she had no more tears, she cried,
cried the way a dog will gulp for air
when it’s choking on a stick or some bone
it’s dug up in a garden and swallowed.
The woman in charge gave her a cold look
and knocked her down with her fist like a man,
and then told her if she didn’t stop crying
she would call the guard to stop her crying.
But my mother couldn’t stop. The howling
was something loose in her nothing could stop.