heaven on earth

An odd juxtaposition, or perhaps not so odd, filled my eyes and ears this week, purely by circumstance (if, I suppose, anything is truly just that, since we curate what we expose ourselves to to some extent).

I’m reading Julija Šukys’ book Epistolophilia, which is the biography of a woman who did her time in Dachau and felt the hand of torture on her gentile flesh for assisting the Jews in the ghetto of Vilnius, Lithuania. She writes, to her dear friend Kazys…

Even if you were a Christian, I wouldn’t want you to wish me entrance into heaven, when such a horrible hell is boiling on earth. Once there is heaven on earth, then there will be heaven in the soul and everywhere. Can anyone be happy when others suffer like this?

I open up my email and in it is one from a website which features documentary photographs and video of anything from Priscilla Presley’s 21’st birthday to an astronaut singing on the moon. But this time, staring out at me from my screen is this…

…a portrait from a series of photographs from Kutno, Poland, dated October 1939. The photographs were taken in the Jewish ghetto which was “liquidated” a few years later, all of its inhabitants (most likely, including this one) sent to an extermination camp.

She haunts me. Both women do, and their tales and their histories. Our history.

And then, again with randomness, I receive a link to the story of a documentary film called Between Two Worlds, which is causing bitter controversy within the Jewish community for its challenge to the status quo.

~ – ~ – ~
These are difficult discussions, I know. They come from pain and anger, but are necessary, vital, particularly in light of my readings of what happened to Ona and so many others she tried to protect in Vilnius, to the unnamed woman in Kutno, and to all the other women, Jewish and Christian and Muslim, men and women and children of all faiths and beliefs, whose lives are affected today by this anger which “boils on earth.”

Words, yet again, can make all the difference, but only when human connections are made, when the dialogue is open and free, gut-wrenching and provocative—only then can words spoken in anger become measured and people who seemed so very different brought together to see how, in the end, very similar they are.

So. very. similar.

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