My Aunt Sonya: After the Holocaust, a Chuppah

My Aunt Sonya: After the Holocaust, a Chuppah

For this year’s Chanukah Contest, I asked readers to nominate mothers who are their personal candle in the darkness, the most inspirational JewishMOM they know. Here is the 5th anonymous semifinalist, Sonya K. of Brooklyn, submitted by Yael Maizels of Ariel, Israel:

My Aunt Sonya was born in Warsaw in 1925. She miraculously survived 4 concentration camps, and following liberation, one day she was walking down a street in a German city with her sister and her best friend when they met a man, a fellow survivor. The survivor rushed to tell his two friends, awestruck, that he had met three young Jewish women. His friends immediately chastised him for not inviting these fellow survivors to share the food that the men had received from the American troops.

Those three Jewish women and three Jewish men met up again and shared what little they had. One couple clicked right away, that left Sonya and one other woman free.

Sonya later explained: “The other man didn’t like redheads, so that left me and Joe.”

My Uncle Joe and Aunt Sonya married in a refugee camp in Germany less than a month after they met. Sonya said that the day she met him, Joe crowned her as his princess and so she remained for the rest of her life.

Aunt Sonya and Uncle Joe had one of the most beautiful marriages that I’ve ever witnessed in my life. They lived in Germany for four years after the war until the Joint placed them in Buffalo, NY. There Sonya managed to live life as a Jew and was one of the founding members of the Young Israel of Greater Buffalo.

Sonya and Joe had one biological son, Allan. But thanks to her speaking and her exuberant personality, she has made connections with thousands of children all over the world.

In Buffalo she and her husband were Aunt Sonya and Uncle Joe to the entire shul: distributing advice and Halls mentholated “candies” to all.

Up until today, in her 90s, Sonya speaks to schoolchildren and college students about her experiences in the Holocaust. She has even shared her story on CNN.

It gives Sonya nightmares every time she plunges into the memories, but it’s important to her to share her story because it’s a lesson that the world needs to remember constantly.

She tells them about a bride who left the trains still in her wedding gown, straight to Auschwitz. She tells them about her 10-year-old brother who was sent directly to the gas chambers. She tells them how in the camps they asked for volunteers who were shoemakers, and how G-d made her raise her hand, although she had never fixed a shoe in her life. Working in that relatively sheltered environment was what enabled her to survive the war.

My Aunt Sonya has experienced moments darker than I can fathom. Even after the war was over, she faced significant challenges. But nonetheless, my Aunt Sonya lights up the world with her positivity and her hope and determination to make the world a better place.

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