Refugee Children and Their Offspring
Those of us who are remnants from the holocaust frequently compare ourselves to our grown up sons and daughters and wonder why they cannot understand us. They cannot possibly feel what we feel and that which we have experienced: the fear, the anguish, the alienation, the inability to blend in, nor what it means to be unable to do so. We belong nowhere and our gruesome past follows us wherever we go. We are like Coleridge’s Ancient Mariner and repeat our story again and again hoping in vain it will change something, will make others listen, will accept us, will care. We come in many shapes and varieties. Some of us are very educated and some of us are not. The majority of us have worked extremely hard to attain whatever we have accomplished. No matter how small or how vast our accomplishments, we never believe they are good enough, that we are good enough. We never feel at ease, never are we completely satisfied, never do we feel totally at home. We are the lost children of yesterday and the lost adults of today. We may get recognition but no response. We wonder what it is to really belong, to be a part of a network of people who are accepted and who travel freely out of town to be invited by family and friends, our arrival being anticipated with joy. We always feel left out, unwanted and rejected. Our memories of childhood are of terror, destruction and death.
Yet we are the fortunate ones, we escaped our ultimate physical destruction. We did not experience the FINAL SOLUTION. Our emotional being was not so fortunate. The echoes of the past lurk in our hearts and minds.
Looking at our children we see their ability to bond, to be optimistic, to be free. They are a part of this wonderful world; have the freedom to think, to feel and to be. They don’t ponder the past because it has been pleasant. They have lived in their homes, been protected and sheltered by their refugee parents who sought a better life for them than they ever dreamed of or imagined. They do not comprehend why their parents do not buy that third pair of shoes, why they turn off lights when they leave a room, why they frequently deprive themselves of the more costly clothing and luxuries. These children have never felt the pangs of hunger nor the pain of abuse. They feel safe, these children do. They know they are wanted, needed and loved. They are safe and secure; unlike their parents, they belong. They are an inherent part of this great country called America.
Dr. Ursula A. Falk is a psychotherapist in private practice and the co-author, with Dr. Gerhard Falk, of Grandparents: A New Look at the Supporting Generation (publ. July 2002)