“Isn’t that Henio’s father?”
My friend Witek was visiting from Poland and I got out my grandmother’s photo album. I am about to embark on a journey of several months to Poland and wanted to make sure that I had a scan of one particular photo—the only photo of one of my grandmother’s sisters, all three of whom were murdered in the Holocaust. This sister—Golde— had 4 boys and had moved to Kovel during the war, I believe. When my grandmother saw saw the photo in the album in the 80s when I was visiting her in her Ramat Gan apartment with a friend, she had quickly stopped chatting, gasped and slammed the album shut. I now opened up the album to scan this precious photo and Witek spotted another photo on the same page—one of six men seated in a sortof official meeting with a caption that said, “Po’alei Zion” (http://www.yivoencyclopedia.org/article.aspx/Poale_Tsiyon).
Witek pointed to the man pictured second from left and said,
“Isn’t that Henio’s father?”
“I don’t know.” I answered, not being as familiar with the images of Henio Zytomirski’s’s family as Witek.
He looked online and found another photo and it sure looked like the same guy.
My dear friend Witek was visiting me in America from Lublin, Poland. It was his first time here and we had a great time—doing two presentation/performances about the work of Jewish remembrance in Poland and our own stories as well. The visit had a nice bookending to it since I met him on my first visit to Poland thirteen years ago and he introduced me to Lublin, the city where my mother was born. Over the years our friendship has grown as has our cooperation in doing the work of Jewish remembrance, which he—one of the wonderful non-Jews on the staff of Brama Grodzka-Teatr NN was already doing long before I met him. As a matter of fact he is the Deputy Director there and that means he knows the stories that they tell very well. One of those stories is about a little boy named Henio Zytomirski. Henio was born in 1933 (two years after my mother). His father took a photo of him every year and sent it to their cousins in Israel. In 1939 the last photo was taken. Henio was happy that day because he had learned to ride a two-wheeler. We believe that Henio was eventually taken to the death camp Majdanek where he was murdered. We know about Henio because his cousin Neta Avidars in Israel shared the photos with Brama Grodzka. So Witek has seen many pictures of Henio and his family.
Today, five days after Witek left, I finally got around to emailing Neta the photo and asking, “Is this your uncle?”
“Y e s ! ! !”
Neta replied back via email.
“This man is absolutely Shmuel Zytomirski, my uncle, Henio’s father!!!
He was the chairman of Poale Zion (Z.S.) party in Lublin.
This picture is all new to me. I am so happy to have it.
Thank you Leora and Witek!”
I am blown away that my non-Jewish, Polish friend is the one who recognized a Jewish guy in a photo from 1930s Lublin in my grandmother’s photo album. In doing so he built new bridges between me, Neta, Witek, Shmuel Zytomirski, Brama Grodzka and Lublin of so long ago.
Kol ha olam kulo b’emet gesher tsar meod. The world really is a very narrow bridge.