A talisman from Braki

From the foundations of Braki

Just what is so special about a stone? This stone…it doesn’t look any different from any other stone. To look at it, you can’t tell its provenance.

It is not technically a talisman – an artefact having magical powers – but for me it has significance.

I took this stone, and four others just like it, from a place in our family’s story.

In 2007, I visited friends in Warsaw. One of my dreams in visiting Warsaw was that I would find the farm that was taken from my paternal grandparents when the Germans invaded Poland. A farm that was occupied by them during the war and used as a military base. I’d seen photographs taken in 1967 of the derelict exterior.

I knew, from the stories my father had told me, that it wasn’t far from Warsaw.

I went to Warsaw armed with a map that I’d printed off Google Earth. I’d searched the name of the town that I’d heard in discussions on family, and the name of his farm – I thought. Every time I put this information in the search field, I got the same result – and the directions for travel by road.

So, on the day of the journey – one of the two days we spent in  Warsaw – this was all the information we had to go on. The story of finding the farm (all 1,000 acres of it) is a long, incredible and very emotional story. That’s another blog for another time.

Eventually a very kind local farmer Jan, led us to piece of earth on which the homestead had stood until the early 1980s when it was demolished. It had once been a gracious four stories (including basement) – with parquet floors throughout. Jan took me to a spot  where he said there’d been a wide stone stairway leading up to the front entrance to the house. There at my feet was a pile of rubble – the remains. The stones resting on the top were loose, so I took some.

As I picked each one up, insects disturbed by the sudden light scuttled away.

Tears fell.

For me, this stone is a reminder of the horrors that visited our family and of the strength shown by my father, uncle and cousin – and all their friends.

Whenever I find the going tough or feel sorry for myself for any reason, I caress this stone in my palm.

Nothing could ever be as bad at the horrors they endured. They witnessed the shooting of their father at point blank range. They were herded to life in the Warsaw Ghetto – and then watched as family, friends and community perished. My father endured six years of deprivation in a prisoner of war camp.

They survived – they made homes for themselves in a country at the opposite end of the world, a country with a different language, where they had no money, no possessions, no history. They established families and businesses. And for the most part, they kept the details of their horrors to themselves.

We have so much to learn from from those who went before.

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