Helena Adler, a valued contributor to the Sustaining Memories Program, passed away in August 2014. Although Helena was quite ill in the year preceding her participation in the program, she managed to complete a lengthy manuscript, and she was extremely happy that she was able to attend our closing program ceremonies earlier in the year.
Being part of the Azrieli Sustaining Memories Program introduced me to survivors who had incredible stories to share. I was able to help a friend tell her story. I was challenged intellectually, researching and validating information survivors shared with me. I was challenged emotionally, listening to and hearing about the horrors experienced as well as witnessed by strong individuals who rebuilt their lives, continued to have families, careers, volunteer commitments and contributed to Canada. I learned a great deal -- the importance of each person’s unique story and the importance of protecting our democracy and our rights.
Contributing to the Sustaining Memories Project has been my most rewarding volunteer role. After partnering with five survivors, I continue to be inspired by their wisdom, kindness and optimism. Working with them has been equally challenging and rewarding. It has given me the opportunity to come to know truly wonderful individuals as they have entrusted me with capturing their life’s experience and translating it into their own memoire that conveys the essence of their lives, losses and loves. It is said that volunteers gain more than they could ever give; that is certainly my experience with the Azrieli Foundation!
The Sustaining Memories Project is a unique opportunity enabling the personal firsthand witness accounts of Holocaust survivors to be preserved for future generations to learn from the past. I had the opportunity to participate in this special program twice. The project enabled me to open the door to my own familial history, as I had the privilege of working with my grandmother to record her story. If it was not for this program, likely her experiences would have gone untold and been forgotten. With that, her vibrant childhood in Europe, the memories of her mother, father and little brother would never be known. This little piece of personal history plays a big role in my family’s future, as it will allow us to better understand who we are and where we came from. I am truly grateful for this written account of a person, a past and a lifetime of experiences that make up so much of whom I am today and who I will become tomorrow.
As a writing partner in the Sustaining Memories Project, I dedicated my work to my husband’s family members, those who survived and those who perished. I felt it was my duty to transcribe the oral stories I heard as survivors told me of what they lived through. Trying to put it all into words was difficult for the survivors, a near-impossible task that I knew would otherwise never be complete, and I was humbled and honoured to be a writing partner in this project. Thank you to the Azrieli Foundation for providing me with this opportunity.
Inspired to overcome any adversity.
I was honoured and privileged to have been selected as a writing partner with the Surviving Memories Project. The strength and resilience of the Holocaust survivors with whom I worked had a profound effect. Their memories were disturbing and moving. I gained a new appreciation of the power of faith, the motivation of hope and the importance of family. In the words of one of the survivors, this was my mitzvah.
I sincerely hope that in some small way assisting the survivors in telling their heart wrenching yet hopeful stories contributes to preserving the history of these “darkest of dark” times.
I am grateful to the survivors and the Azrieli Foundation for selecting me to work on this remarkable project.