Gitta and Roza by the river


To listen to this story in French, click below″

Gitta, my mother and her sister Roza
Gitta and Roza in Slonim, 1929

When Gitta talked about her native town, Slonim, then sometimes in Poland and sometimes in Russia, and nowadays in Belarus, it was the most wonderful place on earth. There and then, life was easy, just as it looks in this photo. Her father had a cinema and a printing press, she went to the gymnasium in spite of the numerus clausus that applied to Jews in those days, she had her sister and brothers around her and played the piano.
She made it sound like her life was a succession of parties, music and fun.
Little did she know when that photo was taken, that her world would collapse with World War II, and that nothing, whatsoever, would remain.
Lately, France was celebrating her Justes, the good and righteous people who sheltered and saved Jews and people persecuted by the Nazis, risking their lives.

In Slonim, the only Jews that survived were the ones who had taken to the woods or managed to flee Poland. Like in many other places, after my grandfather and uncles and aunt were forced to give their earthly possessions to the Nazis, and when Jews had no gold or money left, the whole Jewish community were taken to a place, where they dug the hole that was going to be their tomb, and were shot to death.

My mother only learnt about this tragic end, years after the war, and kept hoping her family and relatives were alive. This tragic story, one among thousands, was told by one of those few people who survived and witnessed the slaughter, hidden in the forest.

This photo must have been taken by a professional photographer. Our sophisticated cameras of today wouldn’t capture the gentle way of that life any better than this wonderful sepia photo does.

Thank you MotherPie for choosing this post for A Perfect Post – January 2007


16 thoughts on “Gitta and Roza by the river

  1. The image is lovely, Claude. No advances in technology could improve the mood of the piece.

    I have to admit I also wonder who took the picture, who selected just this scene, who arranged just this pose, whether the trip to the river was for the express purpose of taking the picture or whether the camera just happened to be a regular accompaniment on Sunday afternoon family jaunts.

  2. Well, David, I can tell you one thing. This photo is part of a series that were obviously taken by the same person / photographer on the same day of my mother and her sister. But I have no idea what the occasion was.

  3. What a lovely keepsake, Claude. A river is the best background for any photo, I think, as the reflections add so much. They were attractive women, and I am sorry to know that their way of life was soon changed. I used to work for a doctor who escaped Poland by walking through the Black Forest. What a horrible part of our history.

  4. Oh, what a poignant photo, Claude. I’m not real familar with family names, etc. But I take it that Gitta was your mother and Roza, your aunt?
    AND was it this aunt that died?
    What a heartbreaking story. I’ve heard a million of them….and yet, each time I hear a new one, the sorrow isn’t any less.
    It was such a terrible time in history….hopefully, never to be repeated again. I think that’s why it’s important for movies like Schinder’s List, etc. to be filmed for the public.
    Thanks for sharing this.

  5. Claude, How did your Mother,Gittta, escape the Nazis or did she ever talk about those times.

    It gives me chills to remember World War 2 and to realize that most of those in the US did not know the full extent of the atrocities being committed against innocent people.

  6. Terri, Gitta was my mother and Roza my aunt. Gitta is the one on the right side of the photo.
    Chancy, Gitta escaped because she had moved to France and she and the rest of the family hid in several places throughout the war.

  7. Such a great photo with such a serenity and innocence surrounding Gitta and Roza. Knowing what lies just below the surface makes you just want to reach into the picture and say run, run, run….for all your worth. It is so hard to look at this photo with the joy it surely had intented.

  8. Our lives, our narratives and our place within those micro and macro narratives are the drum beats we live to.

    The photo is so compelling — knowing your mother on the right, with a river beside her and with your story — puts the river in an entirely different context. Rivers are the stuff of life, what flows from what and from where, to where.

  9. What an amazing picture Claude…just beautiful of your mother and your aunt. You say your mom is on the right? Funny, in this particular picture…I see so much of you in your aunt. Looking at this lovely scene it’s hard to imagine what was to come. Thank you Claude…

  10. claude, with all your innovations on this blog, i admire how you continue to remind us of the specialness of another time. what we have lost, a certain innocence–personally, politically–and important people. often i’m reminded by your posts and photos of a richness missing in my own family, the cord of connection.

  11. Pingback: Petroville » Blog Archive » A Perfect Post ~ January

  12. Pingback: Blogging in Paris » Proud and thrilled

  13. What a lovely, calm, peaceful, tranquil scene of innocence. My heart cries when I think of the death and destruction that followed. I’m sure you treasure this photo, as you and your daughter should, Claude. Thank you for sharing this personal story.

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