Guest post by Naomi (Shaina’s mom).
Today (the 23rd of Adar) is my Saba (grandfather)’s first yartzeit. For me, it is a day of reflection- a time to appreciate who Saba was and how much he impacted my life.
Saba was born in 1923 in Tarnopol, Poland. He was the youngest of a large, religious family. At the age of eighteen, he was conscripted into the Russian army. He drafted without realising he would never see his parents and most of his family again.
Saba fought as an officer in one of history’s bloodiest wars, the Battle of Stalingrad. He lost most of his soldiers in the horrific fighting and grew convinced he would not survive the conflict. Years later, he would repeat that, had someone told him he would survive the war and start a family, he would have thought they were “from a different planet”.
He did survive, with lasting scars on his body and heart.
While he could never forget the trauma of those years, he would not allow himself to get stuck in tragedy.
Saba married Savta, who had also suffered much trauma and loss in the Holocaust. Together, they had the courage to build a new family. I am their first grandchild, something they had never believed possible. Before he passed away last year, Saba saw me become a grandmother.
When I reflect on Saba’s life, I feel I’ve learned so many life lessons from him. One of the most powerful is to be upbeat, no matter what. While dealing with Shaina’s daily challenges and struggles, I remind myself to learn from my grandfather.
His life’s motto was “Be happy!”.
I know he is proud to have a great-granddaughter, Shaina, who faces her many challenges with the same motto.
Regardless of their status, Saba patiently took an interest in the lives of every person he met. Shaina’s non-judgemental way of connecting with whoever she meets reminds me of his love of humanity.
Saba’s unwavering faith in Hashem is another gift he has given our family. Saba always thanked G-d for the good things in his life and accepted his pain and loss with genuine faith.
I always think: If my grandparents could build after facing such devastation, I can draw on their inspiration to travel Shaina’s journey with optimism and faith.