Last Days in Kamenetz
Updated: Nov 24, 2022
I just finished watching The Testament (2017), a film that move me on many different levels. Although fictional, The Testament is riveting and believable because it works with real evidence from many other instances in which the plot is rooted. The Testament stirred in me a profound sense of loss and anxiety embedded in the experiences of my mother’s family in Europe during the war. No one ever truly survives the atrocities committed against their kind, and so they say, the trauma is perpetuated for generations. It is in our demeanors, fears, survival strategies, and language.
The photo that illustrates this confessional post, shows three young girls, my mother’s age at the time it was taken in Kamenetz-Litovsk, a few kilometers northwest of Brest in what is today Belarus. The two girls on the right of the photograph are showing-off the outfits sent by my mother for the transatlantic journey for which my grandfather sent passage. It was a race against time, which unfortunately the girls lost.
Shortly after this picture was taken, special forces of the German army executed the girls at point black at the edge of a mass grave excavated by her parents and other Jews from the collective farm they worked in the outskirts of Kamenetz. My mother would not admit, not even today, that her life was greatly affected by this and several other tragic incidents surrounding the past. Nevertheless, I can see it in her late octogenarian gaze just as I remember seeing it on my grandfather’s eyes. If it’s true what they say that such traumas are passed on to at least two generations, then I can see myself in them, posing before a wooden fence in the final days of Anatevka.