I have wandered all over Stockholm. I have walked from one island to the next, getting lost within the city streets, feeling the wind of the canals, and wishing the weather was a bit warmer.
At the end of the day, my feet always hurt.
Hana spent seven years of her life living in Sweden. During the war she felt uneffected by the Nazi cloud, which turned bright life into ashes. She had no need to fear her own identity in her Swedish safe haven.
Once again, she wrote to schools and made an agreement to exchange cleaning services for her education, room and board.
She left in 1945 upon hearing a rumor that she could attain citizenship in Denmark. This proved to be untrue and eventually she returned to Sweden in 1947, still lacking a national identity.
She integrated herself into life in Stockholm; she made friends, played tennis, and joined a ski club. She lived there until 1950 and at that point immigrated to the United States.
Upon arriving here, I felt aimless. And this unsettling feeling remained painfully persistent during my short two-week stay.
Hana had no money, no belongings, and no friends or family. She had no plan nor time to prepare for her immediate immersion. Did she feel aimless? Or was survival enough of a purpose to keep her distracted?
I am forced to ask myself these questions right now because unlike from her life in Czechoslovakia and Denmark, I do not have as many journals or letters to narrate her experience for me. I don’t know if she had a diary at this time to safeguard her inner thoughts.
I know that she eventually found happiness here. She found her place within the Swedish culture. She once told me that she “wandered around a lot” when she was here. So, within that simple statement, I can give my own wandering a purpose.
My mother reminded me of something my grandmother always said, “Your feet still hurt even if the person next to you doesn’t have feet.”
The fact that her adolescence was ripped away from her and traded in for traumatic experiences didn’t result in her diminishing or challenging the pain of others. She fostered this perspective from a young age. It was part of her spirit and ability to survive.