Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Hana's Story

(my sketch of Hana)

This must needs be a multiple part post. It's a bit unnerving to me, to write about Hana, because it is so close to my soul. She is so much a part of me, that it is like exposing myself when I write about her.

But I promised, so here goes.

Hana's story is complex.

I have written here before about my Holocaust dreams, dreams that started when I was a child of only about 4 years old. Over and over again, I dreamt horrible things, images of the atrocities of the Holocaust. When I began to have these dreams, I had no idea what the Holocaust was, or what any of the dreams meant. I only knew they frightened me, and that I felt as if they were not merely dreams, but memories.

But how could they be memories?

As I grew older, I began to understand what I had been experiencing. It was not until I was in my mid-30s, however, that I comprehended their full significance.

I was having dreams from a past life.

The first past life that I fully uncovered was that of Rachel, a Russian Jewish woman, who was killed in a pogrom in Russia in the 1890s. She was married to a man named Yakov, and they had a beautiful daughter, Sarah, who also perished that day in the pogrom, despite Yakov's efforts to save them.

As I began to delve deeper into my past life experiences, I re-discovered Hana.

(The town square at Kazimierz-Dolny)

Hana was a 10 year old little girl, from the town of Kazimierz-Dolny in Poland. This was a quiet market town, about 2 hours outside of Krakow. She had a lovely life before the war, adored her father and was the apple of her mother's eye. They had a small farm and her father sold milk and produce in the town square every week.

One night, as I opened myself up to her memories, a flood of names rushed at me. I believe that her last name was Skibiskova, or something similar. She also was very fond of a man named Pulli Eckstein, from the village, who served a grandfatherly role for her. Her father, Wladek played the violin, and her mother Elsabet was a strong woman with broad shoulders and a huge heart. Her maiden name was Rawkow.

Their life was peaceful and calm, until the Nazis arrived.

Her family was rounded up, along with all the other Jews in the area, and sent to the camp at Maidanek, where Hana would perish in the gas chambers. She was captured by two Ukrainian brothers, Anton and Marko Danilovich, who were aiding the Nazis with the persecution of the Jews.

Once in the transport, Hana was ripped from her parents, and she became frantic to find them again. At the camp, a female Nazi SS guard took Hana roughly by the hand and began to walk her down the Black Path towards the gas chamber. Hana had her red ball in her hand, but dropped it along the way and was worried about finding it again. Inge, the guard, distracted Hana, singing songs and telling stories, and promising that Hana would find her parents once more at the end of the walk.

Instead, Hana found blackness.

Hana would perish, along with about 100 other young women, in a gas chamber at the back of the camp.

The dreams I had, starting with age four, were all various versions of Hana's memories. Most of them revolved around a huge door being shut on me, and my screaming in fear at the guards who were closing them. I also had repeated dreams about dying inside the gas chamber. This is most likely the source for my claustrophobia.

All of these memories came to me, repeatedly, before I made my trips to Poland and to the camps. Once there, especially at Maidanek and at Kazimierz-Dolny, I felt Hana everywhere. These experiences only solidified my conviction that I was Hana. Over and over again, I saw what she saw, felt what she felt, experienced what she experienced. And, ultimately, as I stood on the grounds of Maidanek, I knew when, where, and how she perished.

Her story has come out in bits and pieces, in the form mostly of poetry, which I will share here on this blog. And more of her story will also emerge, as I haltingly begin to let the memories tell themselves here.

Please help me remember Hana, and all the Hanas of the Holocaust, to ensure that such tragedy may be prevented from ever happening again.

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