I’m honored to have a guest post written by Sonia Korn-Grimani, author of Sonia’s Song, on my blog today. Sonia is writing about a very important topic for all of us to share with our children and students–no matter what their age–BELIEVING IN YOURSELF! On Thursday, I will have a review of Sonia’s book; you can leave a comment on this post or on Thursday’s post by Sunday, October 28 at 8:00 pm CST to be entered to win either Sonia’s memoir or Sonia’s music CD–it’s your choice if you are the winner. So, leave your comments/questions below.
Thank you, Sonia, for writing this beautiful guest post. . .
Believing In Yourself
by Sonia Korn-Grimani
At eleven years old, I had little faith in anything. We had trouble just getting through the day–to-day struggle for survival. My family—along with so many others—had been persecuted for our religious background, being the wrong faith in the wrong place at the wrong time. When you see everything in your world taken away, torn apart, bombed to pieces, it’s hard to have faith in anything anymore. Praying didn’t seem to have any impact; for people like us; things just got worse and worse. It seemed like He had His hands full.
In 1942, after being on the run for three years, the Nazis always one step behind us, I was relocated into an orphanage under an assumed identity. I felt lost in more ways than one, not only from Mother and Father but from who I was. But when I began to sing in the orphan choir every day, I could feel the tones of the music flowing through us, as if the song itself was a prayer. Through song, I felt like I could reach God, even though I didn’t understand the words of the Latin mass at that point. Through singing, I felt a small semblance of power—through my song I asked God to not be ferocious towards my people. Even though I didn’t have faith in much, in myself, or in any sense of future, I began to have faith in beauty, faith in music; and eventually, I began to become more confident in my voice and in myself.
I look to my mother, who had faith in herself and in us from the beginning. So much of what I am and that fact that I am alive at all is due to her faith, determination, and ingenuity. By the time she was in her late twenties, she had two small children and a husband, whom she took care of by working two, sometimes three jobs, selling illegal handbags and fashioning soaps in the bathtub. She made contacts with the underground and found a way for us to be smuggled out of Germany, leaving herself to face the German authorities alone. Pretending to be a German teacher in front of German officers, she was able to get information that was vital to our survival. She took on forged identities in order to get us food and eventually secure our place at the orphanage.
How floored I was at her bravery, her determination to save us. It all came from her faith in herself, her faith that somehow—somehow—we could make it. No matter how dire the circumstances became, she refused to give up.
And as powerful as her faith was, so much of our survival depended on our ability to hide and blend in and pretend to be someone else, as much as on the kindness of others. I think of our neighbor in Germany, Frau Rohland, who comforted us and stayed with us when our mother got arrested, and how she slipped my brother and me butter sandwiches that sustained us all night long on our journey as we walked 40 kilometers to the Belgian border. I think of our neighbors around the orphanage that gave us food when we were starving, and the Boy Scouts that protected us from harm as retreating soldiers riddled our property with land mines. Those neighbors knew who we were, that we weren’t Catholic, but Jewish orphans, and they protected us and treated us as one of their own. That is true kindness, true compassion; and knowing that there is that kind of kindness and compassion gave me back my faith in people, in love, in friendships, in hope, in everything that is beautiful and good in this world.
Thank you, Sonia!