Can You Imagine What You Would You Do?
Yesterday, I told you a bit about my now-weekly visit with my grandmother. I mentioned that she told me story that I found particularly horrific. Nanny has told me many terrible stories, but they have all been abstract enough that I have been able to listen, record, and question. She told me her parents “disappeared”; she told me “people were being taken into the street and shot”. But those words for some reason were not as shocking as this story.
After the war, my grandmother lived with her sister and her husband in Nancy, France. They would often have meal-time guests from the various relocation (resettlement?) camps – I’m picturing these as post-war refugee camps.
My grandmother became friends with Mila, a woman from Poland. Before the war, she had been married to a doctor and had a young son of about 3 or 4. My grandmother couldn’t remember what happened to Mila’s husband, but she did remember this part of the story:
Mila and her son were loaded onto one of the cattle cars going from their town to a concentration camp. Mila jumped off the train and left her son in the cattle car.
I feel pain when I type that. I know this pain is directly related to my current stage in life, and my two children.
Nanny told me that her circle of friends in Nancy hated Mila for what she did. Nanny didn’t. She, in some way, understood.
I do not. I cannot imagine it. I do not judge her actions, I just cannot fathom them. I’ve thought about it all day.
Would I jump off the train to try to survive? YES.
Would I leave my son? NO. I would take him with me. We might have less chance of surviving, but I could not leave him on the train.
Nanny says I don’t know what I would do. Maybe she’s right. She claims they were dehumanized and the things they endured are unimaginable. She says that even as she sits and tells me about it, she can’t believe what she lived through.
Mila went on to emigrate to the UK, re-married, had children and lived a good life just outside of London. Nanny stayed in touch with her until her death.