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We Can and Will Survive 

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It is an incredible thing to be the daughter and granddaughter of Europeans and North-Africans who lived through World War II. The emotional and psychological remnants of the war lived on in their hearts and minds like artifacts they carried inside of them for over 80 years. 

I feel the fear they felt… that all-consuming fear that was conceived in terror and powerlessness. I feel the censorship they endured, being afraid to talk because “the walls have ears.” I feel the suffering that for them became the reality of their daily lives, during six years of darkness, not knowing what the next day will bring, not knowing if they will be alive to see the sun rising again. 

I feel their unimaginable strength, the type of strength forged in the fire of a world crumbling around them. I feel them like a living, eternal flame inside my heart that will never die. I am at once afflicted and blessed by that flame of remembrance.

It is an affliction, knowing that the insanity of those regimes have blown a crater in our collective consciousness that will take generations to heal. It is a blessing, knowing that the emotional remnants of the war have been passed on to me – the sheer significance of their plight and survival, living on through my existence like an oasis in the desert of their suffering. I am inextricably linked to them, to their hearts, to their souls, to the courage that was theirs during humanity’s darkest hour.

It has given me sight. It has given me an acute understanding of the fragility of life. It has shown me the true nature and strength of the human spirit and how much it can endure in the name of love, and in the name of life. 

I walk on the path of remembrance with the brilliance of its flame burning brightly within me. I carry the emotional remnants of the war inside of me, which I inherited from my parents and grandparents – the strongest people I have ever known. 

I will take the fear and turn it into fearlessness. I will take the censorship and speak out louder than ever. I will take their suffering, and turn it into bliss and jubilation. I will take the silence of those dark years, and turn it into forever-lasting remembrance. We can and will survive and thrive.

[Mary dedicates these words to her mom and dad who recently passed away.]

Author

  • Mary Dawood Catlin

    Mary Dawood Catlin is a Canadian writer, historian, pianist, and advocate for human rights and liberties. Her work has been published in various outlets and in the peer-reviewed volume Making Sense of Music. Studies in Musical Semiotics.


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