Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Who Do You Think You Are???

One of my favourite shows on television right now is the show 'Who Do You Think You Are?" - various celebrities are followed by a camera crew as they work with experts to find out where their ancestors are from.  Learning their families history and the struggles they went through really brought into perspective for them how precious life is and whats really important in life.  Sarah Jessica Parker found out of her relatives lived in Salem and one of her relatives was tried in the Salem witch trials (lucky it was towards the end of the trials and she was not put to death).  Lisa Kudrow learned of the horrors of the holocaust and the struggles of her Jewish relatives in Belarus.  Her family story was so inspirational!  Gwenyth Paltrow learned that one of her ancestors was a Rabbi that was known for performing miracles in his village, while her mothers side of the family was from Barbados. Brooke Shields discovered that she is of Royal blood and is related to many kings and queens of France (I always knew there was something so regal about her).  Part of the reason I love this show so much is that it makes you step back and look at 'who you really are' and where you've come from.  If you don't know about your past and don't respect the struggles of your ancestors, you lose a part of who you are.  Knowing your ancestry gives you a sense of stength that no matter what occurs, you are strong enough to survive and continue a legacy that will perhaps be uncovered for your children, grand-children, great grand-children etc etc.  I've mentioned before that my makeup muse if Angeline Jolie, but in all honesty, my #1 muse and the woman I look up to the most is my grandmother.  This past Sunday was the 4th year anniversay of her death and while standing in church, I realized that her presence is very much 'alive' and the mark she has left on my life will always be present. 

My grandmother was born in raised in a time of political turbulence.  She was born in Nedezow, Tomashov-Lubelski in Poland.  The area is known to Ukrainians as Chelm and througout history this land has gone back and forth between Ukraine and Poland.  The land was first established by King Danylo of Ukraine for the 'Rus' people to move and live, work the land etc.  My grandmother remembers everyone living together peacefully before the war - there were many Poles, Jews and Ukrainians living in her village and everyone respected each other, helping each-other out.  I always remember her telling me about one of her friends 'Moisha', a jewish boy who was taken from her village by the Nazi's - up until the time we started getting sick, she still spoke about how she always wonders what happened to him and wish she knew if he survived the war.  After the war, the relations between the poles and ukrainians was strained - my grandmother remembers her church being burned down by her neighbours that she once got a long with.  Then with the introdution of 'Acsia Visla' ordered by the Polish goverment, my grandmothers family was forced to move from their home and leave Poland to move to Ukraine.  My great-grandfather died en-route and by that time, my grandmother was already in Germany. My grandmother was taken by the Nazi's at the age of 15 to work in a forced labour camp in Bremen, Germany.  She never saw her father again, but was able to reuinite with her mother after 50 years. In Germany shy met my grandfather (also a Ukrainian taken to a forced labour camp) - my uncle was born in Germany as well - after the war, when communism started in Eastern Europe no-one was allowed in or out of the country.  She and her family decided to immgrate to Canada.  I feel lucky and privilaged to be living in a democratic country and I embrace the struggles of my family that brought them here ultimately.  So 'Who Do I think I am?????' - I think I'm lucky to have grown up with such a wonderful woman as my grandmother who, regardless of her struggles, made sure to teach me about tolerance and respect for all people.  I dedicate this post to her - my true 'muse' - I also admire the fact that we also look alike!!!


Jeanine Byers Hoag said...

Oh how sweet! What a sweet tribute to your grandmother!!

Renata said...

Thank you Jeanine!!! She is a true role model for me and I miss her being gone, but I feel she is always near me, which is comforting!!!