Elizabeth Bellak, formerly Arianka Spiegel, has not been able to read her sister Renia's diary in its entirety. The pain you feel today when you dive into certain passages is still too acute. Too intense "I have only read some fragments," he says on the other side of the phone. "My mother did not read it either. It was very hard for her." It was Elizabeth's daughter, Alexandra, who wanted to take out those 700 pages of oblivion from the safe where they remained locked for long decades and translate them into English. Now, this "treasure of war," as Elizabeth defines it, comes to light on September 19 as' The diary of Renia Spiegel. The testimony of a young woman in times of the Holocaust '(Plaza & Janés).
Renia and her boyfriend Zygmunt kissed for the first time on June 20, 1941. At that time, the raids and records were already part of the shocking daily life of that Poland that took so long to recognize itself again. The same everyday life that Renia expressed in her diary in prose and also in verse:
"We left the city / as fugitives: / alone, in the dark and silent night./ With the sound of houses falling / the city said goodbye, the darkness over us./ The mercy of the good, / the a mother's embrace in the distance, / may they be our guide, / our comfort, our help./ And so we will overcome / the stones of the road, / until the dawn breaks and the sun rises, / we will be solitary fugitives, / fugitives for all deserted. "
The pages that initially filled Latin classes, movie afternoons and school poetry contests, in which Renia always stood out, ended up being occupied by laments and prayers. "What we feared so much has finally come. The ghetto. The announcements have come out today. Maybe we stay here or maybe not," Renia wrote shortly after that first kiss. "Since eight o'clock today we are locked in the ghetto. Now I live here. The world is isolated from me and I am isolated from the world. The days are terrible and the nights are not better. The ghetto is surrounded by barbed wire, with guards guarding the doors. Leaving without permission is punishable by the death penalty. "
What came next was even worse. Despite Zygmunt's efforts to keep his girlfriend and his own parents safe, his attempts failed on the same day that a sneak put the Germans on the trail of three Jews who remained hidden in the attic of a house. Three bullets fired at dusk ended the three people he loved most. Renia had just turned 18. "I would give anything to remember that I told her how much I loved her before we separated," says Elizabeth, who managed to escape from the ghetto a short time before thanks to Zygmunt's help and to meet with a friend from the school who hid her at home .
He does remember clearly the farewell of his grandparents, with whom she and Renia spent long periods. "They were trying to be brave while Zygmunt told them with gestures that it was time for me to leave, that we were running out of time," says Elizabeth in some of the notes that accompany the newspaper. "My grandmother, whom I loved so much, turned around and covered her face with her hands. My grandfather knelt down, grabbed my shoulders gently and looked me in the eye. Then he handed me a little colored box It was like those perfect lunch boxes to carry the food, as if I were a little girl about to go to school alone for the first time and not someone about to run away to save my life. I have stuck twenty gold coins inside - me "It's all I have. Go wherever you go, you can sell them to get some money." He did not see them again. "I never knew what happened to them, but I'm sure they ended up in a mass grave. They were simply too old for the Nazis to want them in a field."
Because of the memories she treasures from later years, Elizabeth walks with stealth now, almost on tiptoe. The reunion with his mother in Warsaw, the second identity that both were forced to adopt to escape and set course for the United States and the fear that they failed to shake the body until a long time later today have been wrapped in a dense fog. After getting documents with their new names, she was baptized by the same priest who also baptized her mother. "This is my new life. I am in America, I am Catholic and my name is Elizabeth," she repeated herself with recurrence.
There, life continued. "I will never forget the first time I saw American soldiers," he says. "I liked them from the first moment, but there was something about them that was strange to me. -What's wrong with them? - I asked my mother. - They move their mouths, but they don't talk! She laughed. - They are chewing gum, "he replied. I was a teenage refugee who almost did not survive the Holocaust and had never seen a gum, let alone try it."
It was also in the United States where, at the beginning of the decade of the 50s, there was a meeting to which he returns today with hardly any effort, as if time had stopped at that moment to give him the opportunity to treasure him forever in his memory. The same Zygmunt who helped her escape from the ghetto and who, immediately afterwards, was sent to Auschwitz to do forced labor, appeared before her and her mother in New York turned into a doctor, just as she had always wanted. "I have something for you," he said. In his hand he carried a thick notebook of blue lines in his hand. Until that moment, neither Elizabeth nor her mother had known about Renia's diary.
"I spent years trying to forget that I was the girl who had managed to get out of Poland alive, while her sister was not. That is the reason why, when my mother died of cancer on November 23, 1969, only a few months before that my daughter Alexandra was born, I kept the newspaper in a safe, "continues Elizabeth. "Until my children didn't start asking questions, I didn't tell them the truth. I'm Jewish - I confessed to them - and it's time I told you my story. I think you're prepared to listen to it."
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