Madzia's letter to an uncle, 1945
The story behind this letter always pinches my heart.
It was 1945 and my aunty Madzia, together with mum, had just been liberated from Halbstaat concentration camp after six harrowing years of war. They were 20 and 21 years old, still uncertain if any family members had survived. Miraculously, on that first day, Madzia found her brother Adolek (dad). She introduced him to her best friend from the camp - Marysia (who eventually became his wife).
They immediately traveled to Lodz to search for remnants of their family. After five days, Madzia and Adolek found their half brother, Staziek, who was one of the few who had survived the Treblinka uprising.
While in Lodz, and desperate to connect to family, Madzia remembered they had an uncle in London by the name of Leon Kohn, but they had no address nor other details. Madzia decided to write to that uncle and addressed it to ‘LONDON’. She hoped the letter would be transferred to the Red Cross who would find the correct address.
Their Uncle Leon was never found and they didn't hear any more about him. The small group left Lodz to settle and study in Munich, and eventually made their way to Australia and Palestine.
What is interesting in the chain of events that followed is an unbelievable coincidence. The son of mum and dad's friend in Melbourne is a professional stamp dealer. In the mid 90s he was in London at a stamp auction and bought some stamps and old letters. As the letters were written in Polish, Yiddish and Russian, he gave these letters to his father to read. His father noticed the name ‘Adolek’ in one of the letters. He knew an ‘Adolek’ (not a very popular name) living in Melbourne. He immediately rang dad asking if he had a sister by the name of Madzia.
Of course I have, she lives in Israel!
I have her letter written in 1945 in Lodz, he told dad. He was crying because the letter revealed the unfortunate history of our Jewish people in Europe.
Fifty years earlier, they had no idea how their lives would unfold. All those years later, the letter came back to the family - to dad, here in Australia, who sent it to Madja in Israel.
Here is the letter with its English translation:
Translated from Polish
Lodz 29 VIII.1945
Dear unknown Uncle,
Disregarding the fact that we don't know each other in person, you are still my dear Uncle. After all that evil war, even an acquaintance becomes a dear person. For sure you will be surprised receiving this letter from me. Uncle! It is true that you don't know me, but you are my father's brother, and as a very close person, I thought it proper to let you know about my existence.
I am one of the very lucky ones who has survived the war. We have lost so many close and beloved people. Out of all our numerous family I have found two brothers: Adolek and Staziek. Two other brothers died in the Lodz ghetto from extremely harsh conditions and starvation. One lost his life in the Warsaw uprising. Zygmunt was shot by the Gestapo. His wife, Carolla, and three-year-old son, Dudush, survived by a miracle. We have no knowledge of what happened to Ignas.
We have gone through hell. The six years of war were one nightmare. Among other atrocities I spent five weeks at Auschwitz. I hope you are familiar with the hell of these Death Camps. I was there alone, separated from my mother and family. All were taken away for extermination. It is really a miracle that, after such a torture, some are still alive.
We are free and alive now to see the moment of liberation so long-awaited, doubting that this would ever come. We don't know what to do with ourselves. We don't know how to resume our life. At the moment I am with Adolek, Staziek and his wife, Franka. Staziek married after liberating Lodz. We must leave this country.
Dear Uncle! If this is possible, of course, I am begging you, very, very much to take us over to your country. I will be very grateful if you could do this for us. I beg you again to take immediate steps in this direction, because we have no future here, and are deprived of a normal existence.
With whole-hearted greetings from our family,
Madzia (Madja) Konowna (Kohn).
Front of envelope
Back of envelope