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The unintended history lesson


"This is like being in history class." That is what my friend Peter Chapman’s daughter, Georgia, told me at dinner with her parents and our mutual friend Suzanne.


I was telling everyone about my research trip to Poland for my book, The Golden Daughter. My adult friends asked questions. But I worried 18 year old Georgia would be bored. She didn’t say a lot... although she didn't take her eyes off me. 


When I was leaving, she paid me the best possible compliment by saying the evening was like “being in history class.” She learned things she didn’t know before. Her comment made me very happy.


I wrote The Golden Daughter first for myself. I needed to heal, to find out more about my birth father, and about my family connections in Poland. But I also needed to tell the story of the Nazi work slaves (like those pictured above), before they are forgotten by history. 


My mother was a Nazi slave, abducted at 17 from her home in Ukraine and put to work in a factory Germany. She never saw her parents again. I needed to tell the story of the hardships the slaves faced, both during, and after, the war. My mother and my Polish father were both warned by their families against returning home - to Soviet territories - when peace finally arrived, for fear of reprisals. 


My parents came to Canada. As DPs (displaced persons), they were often scorned by Canadians as they struggled to rebuild their lives. I needed to honour their resilience. 


Writing my book taught me the importance of family, love and forgiveness. But Georgia’s comment made me realize I want her, her generation, and others to know the truths in my book. 


Yes, our dinner party was like being in ‘history class’. History is all of us telling our stories to each other and especially to our children. Because if we don't remember the lessons of these stories, we run the risk of repeating the horrors that caused so much pain to so many.


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Well said my friend! A powerful message.

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