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KOLOT – Purim Party

By Irene Frisch

I wasn’t sure I wanted to attend a Purim party hosted by “Hidden Child,” a group of people who, as children in Europe, were hidden in order to escape Nazi persecution. To me, Purim means great joy; a festive atmosphere of eating, drinking and dancing, not Holocaust memories. In fact, my one prior experience with Hidden Child was quite the opposite of a Purim celebration. It was a meeting at which survivors, including some dear friends I have known for over 50 years, shared sad memories and tearful exchanges. Some opened up and told me incredible stories. I was shocked. I thought I knew them so well, and now I suddenly heard horrifying stories of their years in hiding. You can imagine my difficulty in associating this group with a Purim party.

The day of the party, even the weather seemed against the idea of a celebration. It was already snowing and more snow was forecast. The weather would only add to the anxiety and sadness of the day, as we continued to share stories of hardship and survival while anticipating the harrowing drive home. Nevertheless, my friends prevailed and we drove to the party.

To my pleasant surprise, I was met at the door by cheerful music. A young man played Israeli and traditional Jewish music worthy of any good Purim party. The guests dressed in their finery; there were many good-looking faces and figures, all having a wonderful time. People wore makeshift identification tags noting their names and countries of origin. Everyone was a senior citizen, but all had been children in Europe during World War II.

Suddenly, I felt very comfortable. I did not stand out because of my accent. Everyone had an accent, although each was different. I struck up conversations with complete strangers, trying to guess their countries of origin without looking at their nametags. Some people I knew already. I met a girl whom I knew when she was nine years old. She survived the war miraculously and grew into a most beautiful and sophisticated woman. She is now a mother of very successful children and a grandmother. Where did she learn the art of being a mother? Whom did she blame when things went awry as she was growing up? I met a woman I did not know, who would only tell me her first name. She was still afraid to admit she is Jewish. Some members of her family still do not know her origins.

There was good food, no speeches (thankfully!) and a joyous atmosphere. Everybody danced. Unfortunately, there were not enough men. But this did not deter the women; we just danced with each other.

At one point, I thought about all these people as children: hungry, lonely, on the run, not knowing where their next meal would come from or where they would spend the night. In those moments of despair, we could never have imagined our post-war lives, including this joyous celebration. My eyes filled with tears, but only for a second. We all came to have a good time. And I did.

Irene Frisch lives in West Hartford.

Readers are invited to submit original work on a topic of their choosing to Kolot. Submissions should be sent to judiej@jewishledger.com.

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