Category Archives: Europe

The Horse That Jumps

“This is the first drawing of mine that has really jumped off the page. I especially like drawing horses, because they are such majestic creatures, and you can display their beauty. I’ve always loved horses, and learning about them. I think, the drawing also shows my personality.”

By Ava Shorten, age 11, Cork, Ireland.

The Sock Problem

The Sock Problem

By Karena Christen, 12, lives in Riga, Latvia.

Most people lose socks, but not in my family. No, we find socks! First, we’d find one sock lying here or there throughout the house. They never seemed to match any of our other socks, which were mostly plain white cotton. Under my pillow, I found a pink sock with purple triangles. My youngest sister, Laurie, found a yellow sock with an orange cat on it in her closet. Every couple of days, someone would find an odd sock in their bed, their drawers, or on their chair. But one night, the socks seemed to get bolder. Mother had made borsch, and when she ladled a portion of beet soup for me, a blue sock with white sailboats stained pink flopped into my bowl. The next day at school, I dug into my bag to grab my permission slip and pulled out a brown sock with green horses on it. Everyone laughed. When I got home, the floor was littered with bright socks, none of which looked familiar.

At dinner that night, my family agreed we had to do something about this sock problem. People weren’t able to come over to our house because we were afraid they’d walk in the front door and see all our socks in high piles around the house. So the next day, we started leaving the house with bags of socks. We’d go around town leaving a sock here or there, hoping someone would take them. Soon, we realized no one wanted the socks. But the house was getting fuller and fuller, and the socks seemed to follow us. When I got off a tram, I had to grab the handful of socks that had appeared on the seat next to me.

Eventually, my parents told us we’d just have to move. The house was making the socks appear, they decided. So we bought a house on the other side of town. We were all excited because we were sick of the socks, and because our new house was so cool. It was a lot bigger than our old one, and it even had a hot tub!

One night, I was sitting in the hot tub, which was my favorite place in the whole house. Suddenly, I felt a tapping on my leg. I looked down and realized it was a sock being knocked against me by the jets. Right away, I got out of the water, grabbed the sock, stormed upstairs to my parents’ room, and held out the blue sock with purple donuts. My parents were furious. We were supposed to be free from our curse. We called a family meeting. Everyone gathered around the kitchen table. I picked up my glass of water and was about to take a sip when I saw a sock floating in it. It was yellow, with black smiley faces. I felt like that sock was laughing at me.

“What can we do about this?” Father asked, holding up a sock that he had slipped on going down the stairs.

“We could just throw them away,” I offered.

“That won’t solve the problem,” my older brother, Jeff, said.

“What if we sold them?” Laurie asked. We all looked at her. Why had we not thought of that?

“I could build a website,” said Marzie, my middle sister.

“We could pair them up so people who like weird socks will buy them,” Jeff said.

“We’ll make a bunch of money!” shouted Laurie. That night, Marzie started working on the website. Jeff, my parents and I rounded up all the socks we could find while Laurie shouted directions at everyone. Soon, we were up and running, the most successful sock-dealer on the Internet. And, we never had to worry about finding socks again.

—Karena Christen, 12, lives in Riga, Latvia. She enjoys reading, math, and pastries. She has lost many socks in her days, much to her distress.

Erwin: A Holocaust Survivor

By Maggie Satterthwaite, age 16, European American, Massachusetts.

MUNKACS, CZECHOSLOVAKIA, MAY 1944. The German soldiers trampled, raided, and forced his family out of their house and onto a train, which led most of them to their death. This was the moment when World War II confronted Erwin Forley and his family. They watched flames swallow their IDs, while simultaneously feeling their own lives burn to nothing. The happy life that Forely knew as a Czechoslovakian teenager was stolen from him, and soon enough his existence would mean nothing more than a tattoo marking A-9957 on his arm.

Mr. Forely, 92, tells his story to reflect on and share his experiences during the Holocaust, but also to warn today’s society about what may happen if we continue to choose violence over peace and hatred over love.

Before the Nazis arrived in his town, life was normal. For most of his childhood, there was no sign of anti-Semitism or war.

“Life was good. We had parties, we went swimming, we went ice-skating, and we had normal lives… until the end,” says Forley. “Until they took us.”

Forely grew up in Czechoslovakia with a loving and honest family—his father, mother, brother, sister, grandparents, and eight uncles and aunts. By the end of the war in 1945, there were only three survivors in his family—his sister, mother, and himself.

After their capture, Forely’s family was sent off to a ghetto, where they survived off of little food for three weeks. Then, already weak, they were thrown into cattle cars, where one hundred other people were crammed, and were shipped to Auschwitz. At the concentration camp his grandparents and young brother, deemed useless, were sent to a gas chamber. The father of a girl Forely had known in the ghetto told him to “take good care of my daughter,” as he was not optimistic that he would survive.

Forely and his father remained together, but they had to hide their relationship. If an SS (Schutzstaffel in German, meaning Protection Squadron) guard knew that two men were family, one would be beaten to make the other suffer. To avoid this, Forely called his father by his name.

Although he was not beaten in front of his father, he was often threatened with attacks from German Shepherds. These vicious dogs were used by the SS guards for their ability to maim or kill prisoners who misbehaved.

Because Forely and his father were farmers, they continued to work as farmers in Auschwitz for six months. In many ways, this work on the farm saved their lives at first, as they had a purpose in providing for Germany. Although it helped them avoid the gas chambers, it was still extremely dangerous and took place in brutal conditions. Forely, for instance, was hurt while cutting trees and had to go to the hospital, getting separated from his father.

Later, his father was taken to another camp, where he eventually died of hunger.

Just days after Forely was treated for his injury, the Russians liberated Auschwitz on January 27, 1945.

Erwin Forely was free.

Today he says, “I have faith. I am a believer, and that is why I survived.” He explains that his hope and resilience saved his life.

Once Forely left his worst memories behind and reentered life outside of the camp, he found his way back to his childhood home in Munkacs. However, a Russian captain had occupied the house. Forely explained that he used to live there and asked if he could enter his home to move some furniture. The Russian approved.

Inside, Forely pulled out a pair of earrings his father had given his father, earrings he had hidden before being sent to the camp. The earrings were also survivors of WWII, and they now belong to Forely’s granddaughter.

Later, Forely rang the doorbell to his house again, but this time his mother and sister opened the door. Previously unaware that they had survived and returned, he was grateful to reunite with his only living family members. Together they moved around Europe, and Forely went on to study textile engineering at university.

One day, they received a special package. It was from Forely’s uncle, who was in New York. He sent them papers, and soon enough they were on a long journey to America.

Although he would always hate every German his age or older, Forely was able to be positive and optimistic when beginning his new life in New York.

“I didn’t feel out of place,” claims Forely. He was happy in America and felt welcomed.

Forely was once surrounded by death. Now, however, he lives contentedly with his wife of 67 years, with whom he has children and grandchildren.

“She is always helping me. She is my light,” says Forely, as he mentions his wife.

Seventy-five years ago, the only light that Erwin Forely saw was from deadly flames. Now, he sees it instead in the warm, kind faces of his family.

By Maggie Satterthwaite, age 16, European American, Massachusetts.

A Gift

By Chad Glang, Ph.D., Colorado.

Stained Glass Art by Chad Glang, Colorado.

Someone asked me recently when was it that I first awakened to the spiritual side of life.
 
I have a vivid memory from my time as a student in France. I was 19, and several of us were invited to be companions to kids at a nearby orphanage. In several visits, I connected with a boy of eight. In our final afternoon together he went to his bureau—container of all his worldly possessions. 

He brought out a rare, treasured postage stamp and handed it to me: Un cadeau pour toi, “A gift for you.” 

I was so touched. I pulled out my wallet and found a memento I prized. “Great! We’ll trade,” I said.

His was crestfallen, his eyes filled with tears. “No, not a trade… it’s a gift. I want to give it to you.” I stopped breathing. Oh… I had denied him the experience of giving. In my discomfort with the vulnerability of being the receiver, I’d reflexively moved to equalize the relationship. Unaware, acting out of my own feelings, I’d walked on his feelings… and his dignity. 

More than fifty years later, I am still brought to stillness by this memory. I denied the gift of the stamp; I could not deny the gift of the learning. There’s something more going on here… it’s not just about what my limited, if well intentioned, ego can comprehend.

I didn’t have words for that experience at the time, which was part of its power. Now, the Sanskrit greeting Namaste comes to mind: “The place in me of love and truth and light greets the place in you of love and truth and light.” 

At a given moment, we may be wearing particular hats, like server and served, but we are all in this together…and deep down we are all the same.

—Chad Glang, Ph.D., lives a retired life in Colorado. He works with stained glass, hikes, bikes and camps. He practiced counseling psychology for 40 years.