My people were all poor people, the ones who survived to look in my eyes and touch my fingers and those who didn’t, dying instead of fever, hunger, or even a bullet in the face, dying maybe thinking of how their deaths were balanced by my birth or one of the other stories the poor tell themselves to give themselves the strength to crawl out of their own graves.
Not all of them had this strength but enough of them did, so that I’m here and you’re here reading this blog about them.
What kept them going?
I think about that a lot.
Maybe there's something in the DNA of people who start with nothing and end with nothing, and in between live from one handful of nothing to the next handful of nothing.
They keep going.
Through the misery in the rain and the terror in the snow, they keep going--even when there aren’t any rungs on the ladder, even when there aren’t any ladders.
(The photos are of my uncle Jan Hanczarek. He was taken to Siberia by the Russians in 1941. The Russians enslaved millions of Poles. In the first photo, he is standing with his wife and two children. I don't know their names. In the second photo, he and his wife are standing at the grave of my grandmother and my aunt and my aunt's baby who were all killed by the Nazis.)