The Leather Suitcase

My father and his parents arrived to the United States in the late 1950’s after surviving the Holocaust. Although my father learned to speak English fluently my grandmother, Zsofia spoke only very broken English even up until her death at the age of 102. It was evident though, after my grandfather Miklos’s death in the 1970’s, followed by my father’s death in 1987 that my grandmother was in pain not only from losing two of the most important people in her life, but also having lost siblings and other relatives in the concentration camps. Growing up I remember my grandmother sharing countless photos with me of relatives, and can now only guess their relationship to me by the few, legible handwritten notes in Hungarian on the backs of them. She kept these in a brown leather suitcase which told its age by the weathered scratches, and string in place of where a handle once was. Each time I look at it now I am reminded of the scene from Schindler’s List when Jews boarded trains, and their suitcases were thrown into piles which would later be raped of their belongings. Upon my grandmother’s death I was given this suitcase, but didn’t realize until after having gone through it just how special the contents were to her. This brown leather, scratched suitcase with withered stitching around the edges was much more than a box where she kept her memories. It was filled with photos,
passports, a name change document, European travel authorization letters, handwritten Hungarian recipes on paper so frail it crumbles at the touch, and a Hungarian Passover Hagada. It truly represented a time capsule of her memoirs.
What I find to be so extraordinary about how she kept her most valuable possessions is that she didn’t know how valuable they were during her life. Everything in this suitcase is her history. Points of time filled with joy and sometimes even heartbreak will be passed down to future generations so we will never forget. We can never forget where we came from and how important it is to remember.

--Sandy Springs, GA