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 Stalins 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 Zaidys 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,