I’m thankful for the opportunity to remember
There are very few feelings as nostalgic as walking in my grandparents’ house.
The smells, the dog barking and the sound of the blaring radio. But this day was different, although everything was physically so familiar, there was something different about this particular visit. Maybe it was because for the first time in my life time, I got the opportunity to understand a more serious part of my history; where I come from and what makes my story.
I was desperate to uncover all that I could about my great-grandfather, Maurice Sirin. I wanted to squeeze all the information out of my grandfather that I could but his response was, “we weren’t allowed to discuss that type of thing.” I don’t think he wanted to recall those memories.
All I have is testimonies from his family and some archival stuff; an old suit, his old passports, maybe a couch or two; but nothing of immense significance. One rainy afternoon, I sat in the kitchen with my grandpa, with a good cup of tea of course, and discussed what it was like growing up, and the experience of having an emigrant father. All he clearly remembers is the one particular mantra “It isn’t nice sleeping on a park bench.” He recalls that this life was bound and guided by this mantra, “Jamie, he came from nothing, I tell you, nothing.”
As we approach Pesach and we recall the exodus; I find myself grateful that I am able to retell and recall my great-grandfather’s story; for he wasn’t able to face telling his own. I am grateful that he sacrificed and endured the hardships on my behalf for I am proud and indebted to be a South African Jew.
Jamie Kawalsky is a Multimedia and English Graduate from the University of Cape Town. Currently completing her honours in Media, Jamie has a real passion for her Judaism and her heritage and is currently working towards a career in marketing and branding.