RIP Aunt Rosa

August 3, 2009:

I give my dad a silent hug. “Thank you,” he says in a firm but gentle voice. “You know you look like her too. She was a very beautiful person.” 

One year ago, Rosa — my grandmother’s sister and my father’s aunt — passed away. I knew her mostly through family stories. She is ingrained in my memory like a classic hero.
Rosa was a Soviet nurse on the war front during World War II. Upon her return to Danetsk, Ukraine, she was asked to leave her post as a head nurse in a hospital under the jurisdiction of the KGB, the Soviet “secret” police. I’ve been told that it was obvious at the time that her religion and culture were not welcome.

Rosa was a Jewish woman living in the Soviet Union. Her husband, a Christian Ukrainian, was also asked to sacrifice. He was repeatedly told to leave her or lose his job as well. The couple stayed together but not for the fairytale ending.

This was a woman who was not accepted by her country nor her in-laws, whom she lived with. Rosa’s mother-in-law never accepted her and she had to always keep her distance. Family members told me the story of her marriage as an “example” of the pain of racism, and the importance of our culture. 
I only met Rosa once as a child, but I really wish I had a chance to know her. To hear her perspective and ask her how she viewed our society — blended together and so imperfect.

Her name comes up so often and every time I understand what it means for a person to live on after their death. Her name and her kindness has not left anyone who knew her.
I see that, and I wish that one day I can have such a strong influence over my loved ones.  I hope to be remembered so fondly for my strengths.

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