Haunted By The Past

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I have a peculiar feeling deep down in my gut as I write this post…

My newly discovered Kluchinski cousin who lives in France, is working on our family tree. One that includes pictures of our blended relatives.

So, here I am staring into the faces of Kluchins (Kluchinski’s) and I am wiping away tears looking at relatives that I never got a chance to meet because the majority of them were murdered by the Nazis during the Holocaust.

These people are so beautiful to me. They look like my father, his brothers, and a lot like my sons. And they look like ME!!!!

These pictures are the faces of my relatives who died in Auschwitz. Good people I never got to know. Adults, teens, and children, who were never able to live their lives because Hitler’s Nazi’s cut them down in their prime. And I am literally sobbing because they look so much like my family. Like the people I love. It is like staring into the mirror and seeing MY eyes, my smile… And I am utterly heartbroken.

It is one thing to read the names of someone on a wall. It is another thing to look into their eyes. For the first time seeing my Father’s side of the family, the Kluchin relatives, I feel like the wind has been punched out of me. I have a lump in my throat from forcing back pain. I so wish my Dad were still alive and could see their faces too. All we knew was that my grandfather took his family and left Paris to come to America around 1918.  I didn’t know that he had several brothers and sisters that stayed in Paris. What my siblings and I assumed was that my father’s side of the family was lost in the war. But none of us could have suspected that one of my father’s first cousins survived because she hid from the Nazis, and years later her daughter found me while doing ancestry research.  She thought she was the last surviving Kluchinski, until she discovered me. Pretty miraculous I’d say!

Before my father died he began an ancestry quest to find out about his family and my sister and I, in our retirement, took up where he left off. And luckily our precious cousin, Sandrine is compiling a tree filling in the blanks with the Paris Kluchinski’s. We are seeing new names, new faces, and it is overwhelmingly emotional.

It is wonderful to say their names aloud so they can be remembered. (Judaism says our loved ones need to be remembered in every generation. We say their names and give our children their names so their memories live on.)

But this is gut wrenching too. My heart literally hurts. These souls didn’t deserve to be dragged out of their homes and killed. Nobody deserves to die like that. These people need to be more than just a name on a wall. They need to be a face with a smile and a name that my children and grandchildren can look at and remember. Because their lives mattered!!!!!!

Now perhaps those of you who read my blog will understand why I am continually fighting for truth and justice. Why I persist and resist the madman in the White House. Because, I understand how dangerous fascism is, and how easily corruption can take over a nation. How hatred can take away those we love.

I am going to take one more look at the faces of my long lost ancestors tonight and say a prayer to let them know they are still loved. Below are just a few.

Thank you, dear cousin Sandrine for this gift of placing faces to names.

*On the memorial wall in Paris, the names of those who died in Auschwitz were based on Nazi records, which were spelled phonetically. Therefore they spelled Kluchinski with a C. (Cluchinski )or in other areas of the wall just Chinski.

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My newly discovered cousin, Sandrine on the bottom, facetiming me from Paris. I am in the top of this picture using my phone to snap a pic as we are chatting on my iPad. The wonders of technology and DNA!

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24 thoughts on “Haunted By The Past

  1. Yes. It’s a combination of joy finding family and heartbreaking knowing how so many of them died. My grandfather had several sisters and brothers , all married with families and all but one perished at Auschwitz. As a child I wondered why my mom had so many relatives and my father only had two cousins on his mother’s side. None on his father’s side. How I wish he knew one survived. Thank goodness my grandfather came to America. Or my fate would have been sealed.

  2. Oh, Lesley, what a powerful story. It’s so important that this kind of personal history is shared and honored. And that the lessons learned from this horrific time are not forgotten. Thank you.

  3. “These people need to be more than just a name on a wall. They need to be a face with a smile and a name that my children and grandchildren can look at and remember. Because their lives mattered!!!!!!”

    In Pere Lachaise (Paris’s largest and most famous cemetary”) there is a section for Holocaust victims and it is a gut-wrenching, soul-searing experience to walk its many rows. “For the 20,000 French citizens who were taken to Auschwitz.” “For the 38,000 French citizens who were taken to Bergen-Belsen.” On and on. The enormity of it is staggering, row upon row. And on these monuments, photos, like the ones you posted of your family. Hundreds of faces.

    My best friend growing up–her father was the only survivor of his family. There is a photo of him, age 17, taken with a half dozen other survivors on the day the Allies liberated his camp. I haven’t seen that photo for over 40 years but I have never forgotten it.

    There is some DEEP divide between people who would commit such atrocities on others and people who would never even dream of it. But it seems to be always with us. Keep hollering. And believe that you are saving someone’s life.

    1. Thank you Amy for understanding and for so eloquently expressing your tender hearted words. My relatives are among the victims you mentioned in Paris. I suppose this is all new to me since growing up I knew I had family who perished, but until a few months ago they didn’t have names and yesterday they were given faces. It shook me to the core. Plus knowing I have a cousin left is such a blessing. Together we are working on our family tree.When someone passes away Jews say , “May her/his memory be a blessing.” Remembering is the way we honor our dead. Now they are remembered. ❤️

    1. Thank you Lance for reading and taking this journey with me.Discovering my family had a survivor in France has been a real gift. But, along with that joy is the burden of getting to know the relatives who perished. Now I have a better understanding of why my father’s family never talked about it. It must have been too painful for them. Recents Documents show my father and his family actually returned to France for a few years and stayed with the very relatives who died at Auschwitz. And we discovered postcards and translated them from French and Yiddish telling us so much more. Apparently, early 20th century America wasn’t as enlightened or progressive as my grandparents were used to. And so they went back to France to live among scholars and artists in a creative area of Paris. Only to return later to the US once again when anti-Semitism became a threat. It makes me happy to realize that my artistic soul was always part of my genetic make-up. I wish I had known my paternal grandfather. (He died when I was a baby). He did leave us his violin. Nobody in the family could play it until my youngest son took it down from the closet and brought it to his guitar shop to repair it. (He was in a rock band at the time while in high school.) Amazingly he was able to learn to play it. And ironically he is the spitting image of my late grandfather. Genetics is pretty awesome. My folks gave my brother violin lessons but he had zero music talent. Lol

    2. Lesley, you should, if haven’t already, write a book on your family history. You’re a very gifted writer, a true wordsmith. I am so very appreciative of you sharing your past with me. Thank you sincerely!

  4. Lesley, your family pictured here is beautiful! Claire I think has eyes like yours in your picture, and it is terribly sad that those eyes had to see such atrocities – and how meaningful that they can be remembered not only for the hardships they endured, but for the beauty and vibrant life brimming out of those pictures. We must not forget, what use is suffering if the lessons thereof are simply buried under the tribal exigencies and power grabs of the present? Those who do not see the symmetries of our current racist populism with the fascism of the Nazis, matter of scale and efficiency are of no account – if it is true that you save the world if you save a life, then the terrifying inverse also applies. I am grateful for the remembrance of your family, and the lessons you derive from them. Truly as Malachi wrote, there is a critical need to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the hearts of the children to the fathers, otherwise, it is truly all a waste of offered love. I am glad, Lesley, to see you. Lona.

    1. How beautifully written Lona. Thank you for that heartfelt comment. And yes I have Claire and Fanny’s eyes. And so does my youngest son. Through the generations their beautiful images live on.

  5. Lesley, this is both an amazing and awful story. I’m glad you have this information to bring about peace, but I’m saddened to know that you and your family were apart of such a terrible act of history.

  6. Thank you K E for your kind remarks. Yes, while it is wonderful to connect with newly found relatives, I am heartbroken to think about what my cousins had to endure strictly because of their faith. It never ceases to amaze me how in modern times bigotry could become so hateful that it killed innocent men, women and children
    I will never understand the mentality behind prejudice of any kind.

  7. I’m sorry. I understand how overwhelming it must be for you to have these memories just come rushing back at the sight of their pictures. They all look like wonderful people, as I’m sure they were.
    It’s saddening how tragedies of such magnitude are slowly but surely finding their way back in our present day society. It’s like we’ve learnt nothing from the past. It’s perhaps only a matter of time until the saying ‘Those who don’t learn from the past are condemned to repeat it’ will be realized in front of us.
    Wishing you all the strength in the world, Lesley ❤.

    1. Thank you for your wise incite. Sadly those who don’t learn from history not only repeat it but spread hate and ignorance. There’s no reason for ignorance in today’s world.some people just to hate I guess.

  8. Wow. How powerful and personally powerful. I don’t understand how anyone can deny the Holocaust. It just…frustrates me to no end.

    On a lighter note, I am tickled a bit that you and your cousin have similar hairstyles. 😊😊 So glad you guys are able to connect.

  9. Thank you for recognizing the powerful impact of that awful time in history. And yes, it was incredible meeting my cousin and fun that we share a resemblance. She looks like a younger version of myself. (I’m almost 30 years older) and it’s like talking to my daughter.

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