My phone rang waking me out of a deep sleep. It was early on Saturday morning. The number on the phone showed it was from Israel but I didn’t recognize it. Answering it I heard,
“Susan, where are you?! We are waiting for you!”
It was Sonya and Misha, Survivors in Israel, calling me. Immediately I was wide awake and thrilled to hear her voice. We had a conversation for about ten minutes while she questioned when I was returning to Israel and chided me I had been away too long! Before long she had me promise to come see them when I came to Israel next!
She said Misha was sitting by her waiting to hear her tell him the entire conversation. [We were speaking in English while he was waiting for the Hebrew or Russian translation.]
Let me tell you who these very special people are. Misha is an artist in Israel, well known with his works in museums and displayed at intersections. His house is filled with his artwork of many different mediums. A gifted man, he has done it all. Sonya is his wife, caring for Misha as no one else could
Misha is in his mid-90’s and he has great difficulty standing and walking. He was wounded in the war in his leg and foot. He has never really recovered from the injury. These days he spends his time making jewelry and stamping Hebrew letters on Israeli coins.
Before I left Israel this last time, Misha and Sofia had called me to come to their home- they had something important to tell me. When I arrived, after we talked and ate (you have to EAT at a Survivor’s home!) Misha reached up and took down his wood carving as he usually did when I came. I have observed Misha showing it to people many times. It was very special to me.
Cradled in his hand were the three wooden people with their mouths open, calling, screaming, in silence. He handed it to me to hold. I did so with reverence. Misha had carved this piece in 1941, while in the ghetto. He saw people starving and three of them had caught his eye. A piece of wood he found held the secret of those three people. He found that secret, and carved their faces giving silent voice to the starvation that was killing them.
I remembered again the first time I saw the wooden carving. I was in shock. For years I did not tell Misha and Sonya what it meant to me, but finally I shared my story.
When I first came to Israel on a visit, I had dreams of people, not realizing they were of what was coming in my future. In one dream I stood in an arched doorway looking down into a room. Standing at the top of some steps, with the Lord behind my left shoulder, the people filled the room. Wearing older clothes, some ragged, in dark colors they were pressing toward me, looking me in the face, and screaming something… they wanted me to do something.
I asked the Lord, “What do these people want? He said,
“They want you to help them. Will you?”
My answer was, “But I do not know what they want. I can’t hear anything.”
The people were screaming asking, all with no sound. Not one whisper. It was surreal to see them but not hear anything.
The Lord said to me, “It is their Silent Scream for Help.”
And that was the end of the dream. I could not forget their faces or the urgency of their unspoken requests.
Seven years later I was standing next to Misha as he placed this carving in my hands for the first time. I was stunned. They were the same faces. These were people who died in the ghetto, starved to death- but they were in my dream.
Misha and Sonya had known the carving meant a lot to me but did not know why. Finally I had told them of my dream. They both shook their heads. Sonya asked, “How can it be?” Misha said, “It is from God.”
Yes, it was from God.
One year after I told them my dream, I received this call to come and see them. As I held the carving again, marveling once more at the faces from my dream, Misha spoke,
“It is yours. It belongs to you. I want you to have it.”
I could not take in at first that he was giving me this incredible gift, his work of art, a part of history that he and it had survived the ghetto and ravages of war and God had brought us all together. But Misha had something else to say,
“I want you to take this with you to the United States. I want you to show it wherever you go and tell the people our history. Tell them how we suffered and died and how we survived. I want you to show them this carving and tell them everything. Tell them not to forget us. Remember us! Remember so this will not happen again!”
And so I carry this amazing piece of wood, this carving of emotion and truth and history, real people that suffered and died, everywhere I share about the Survivors. I want people to see it and know, KNOW, the truth of the past. It is my destiny to make sure no one forgets the Survivors of the Holocaust. If you see me, ask about this part of Misha’s past that is now part of our future.
Before I hung up the phone, I told Sonya to let Misha know I am fulfilling his request. His carving travels with me and I show it everywhere. I especially show it to the young people. They are our future… and they have to know and remember. I tell them Misha’s words. The day is coming when he will no longer be able to tell others. It is our responsibility to carry on his words.
Deeply moved and speaking with urgency,