Family

“Since I reached the age of reason, I was told over and over again, by my parents and grandparents and other relatives : “Don’t ever do anything to shame the family.”
The family, the family. Who is the family? What do I know about this family? Only that I love them because they are and know that I am loved by them all and feel secure. 
Their lives are a mystery to me. I see them as they are now. I cannot imagine what and who they were before, where they came from, and what they were like at my young age. I see them only as grown up adults who have authority over me and who are to be respected and obeyed. As the saying went then “Children are to be seen and not heard.” Every time the adults had something to discuss we were sent out of the room. It was a heroic and adventurous (and dangerous) undertaking to sit on top of the steps and eavesdrop. 
Both sets of my grandparents lived in Kolin, where they and I myself were born. It is only 100 km from Prague. When I was less than one year old, we moved to Prague, where my father opened a store of children’s clothing. We visited often by train, less than an hour train ride.”
- An excerpt from “Family,” written by Hana Dubova, 2004

If she could not define, nevertheless imagine, their personalities and their passions, then how can I even attempt to begin to understand who they were as people?

Hana's daughter (and my mother), Janet, cleans pollen off of her great grandfather's grave in Kolin.

Hana's daughter (and my mother), Janet, cleans pollen off of her great grandfather's grave in Kolin.

I visited Kolín for my first time in April of 2014 when my mom and I had the chance to travel to the Czech Republic. Together, we walked through the cemetery where my great great grandfather has a grave. He was the only one of his generation to have a dignified death and a proper burial. We ate, we sipped wine, and we talked at length about how differently we process and have internalized the history of our family, both sensitive to the facts. My mother is the daughter of a Holocaust survivor and I am the granddaughter. She grew up without extended family and the heavy burden of the reality for why that was. I grew up surrounded by cousins, aunts and uncles.

What a big difference one generation makes.