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Morris Henechowicz - Passed April 14, 2005

On April 14, 2005 our family witnessed something that we never thought would become a reality. After 15 years of battling cancer our beloved Zaidy Moish passed on. The last year of his life was quite a fight for him, something he was not used to as this battle was the first that he would not win. Zaidy had never known how to give up; never in his life had he given up. If he did, my family and I would not be here today.

I am going to tell this story as best I can from my recollection of his many stories.

His great tale starts like this.

Friday September 1, 1939 Hitlers Army of Thugs invades Poland. That evening, Zaidy Moish and his large family were enjoying a nice Shabbat dinner when the Nazis came knocking. Zaidy being the hefty, strong, and powerful young man volunteered to leave dinner and be taken away by the Nazis. This was probably the last time he saw most of his siblings. The Nazis took him to a detention centre some where in Poland; this is where the story becomes fascinating and almost unbelievable. Somehow Zaidy gets thrown into a pool to be drowned and potentially electrocuted. Still to this day I cannot figure out how he managed to escape, but from what he told my cousins and I, he managed to climb out of the pool, kill the guards and make his escape to Russia. As unbelievable as that sounds I would never have questioned him about it. This is a man who, until his last living day, had visible scars from being shot twice in the war, once in the neck and once in the wrist.

After his escape to Russia, Zaidy Moish was forced to drive a Tank in Stalin’s Communist Army. After a short time he could no longer bare the army and so he left. For the next few years he made his way through a war torn Russia. Living on the run and doing everything he could to stay alive. As the war came to an end Zaidy Moish went back to Bergin Belzin, a place where many Jews went to seek their long lost families. This is where he met up with two friends whom he traveled back to Poland with to look for his family. Somewhere along this journey he met our Bubbie. Their first encounter was not the one that would bind our family together, however it was a meeting of fate on a train in post-war Europe that introduced the two. It was not until a few years later that they would run into each other again on College Street in Toronto. And as they say in fairy tales, Moish and Nina lived happily ever after. Four children and eleven grandchildren later, Zaidy Moish had everything to be proud of.

Three summers ago I was fortunate enough to travel to Poland with my Zaidy, my cousins, and my uncle. As we traveled through Poland to my Zaidy’s birthplace, I realized how fortunate I was to be there with him. Even at a young age of 85 nothing could stop him from showing me and my cousin everything he could remember of his home town. He walked the streets of Piotrkow Trybunalski as if he had never left. Showing me where he used to hang out with friends, where he used to eat, where he used to take his girlfriends and where the Jews used to pray. He remembered everything about a town he once loved so much. What I found surprising and what seems common amongst thoughts of survivors is that that they will never go back to Poland since they could never go back to a country that allowed such atrocities to take place. This meant that they will never show their children and grandchildren where they grew up. I can empathize with them, because if I had gone through any experience near to what they suffered through, I probably would not want to go back either. However, Zaidy Moish was different, to him Poland was the country he grew up in, the country where he is from, and nothing would change that. He wanted to show my cousin and I everything, even the house he grew up in. When we walked up those stairs and into the house that my Zaidy was born into, the feeling was so surreal. It took us a moment to realize where we were standing and then we saw the look on my Zaidys face. The energy he had within him was outstanding. He was so proud to show us where he was from and we were proud to be there with him. (see enclosed picture)

As the next few days unfolded I found myself on a tour through rural Poland and then standing in the midst of Auschwitz and Birkenau. For anybody that is not familiar with such places, touring these horrific places is long and enduring. As we walked around and witnessed first hand the Nazi atrocities, I could not believe the endurance of Zaidy Moish. His stamina that day was a testament to his life, no matter the obstacle he made it to the end of the day.

My short trip to Poland was an experience of a life time and a trip every Jew should experience. Nothing can compare to witnessing your family roots first hand. I believe that there are a lot of survivor's children and grandchildren who have yet to make the trip to their origin. I say to them go now while your parents and grandparents are still alive and well. This way they can tell you their story as it happened.

In the coming generations the holocaust will only be a part of history and we will have no first hand accounts of what happened. It is up to us, the younger generation, to see, absorb and to learn in order to pass on this information to our children and our children's children.

Adam Todd Henechowicz,
from Canada