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  • Jane

To Sula with Love


Our dear Sula passed away over two and a half years ago, in April 2020. Yesterday was her consecration and I wrote a little speech in memory of her.

I have known Sula all my life. I always called her 'Aunty Sula', even though she wasn’t my real aunty. But she was as good, or better than any aunty could be.

Sula, her husband Piotrek, and daughter Estelle (7 months younger than me) were part of my earliest memories. I still can picture their first home, with a red roof and green window frames. And in the lounge-room sat a small cane chair with Estelle’s potty inside.

Growing up, I remember mum on the phone in the kitchen chewing the fat with Sula most mornings. (I thought those conversations were far too long). Even though mum and Sula were such different personalities, they were very close and knew each other intimately, including their tragic shared memories of their internment at Auschwitz.

When Piotrek passed away at 56, mum and dad seemed to take Sula under her wing. They were always so comfortable together and loved Sula very much, and I know Sula loved them too, even though she did think mum’s choices in life sometimes odd and challenging.

But Sula wasn’t just a big part of mum and dad’s life, she was also a big part of my life. I remember staying at Sula & Piotrek’s home as a child, playing with Estelle through the summer while mum and dad were away overseas.

When I married, we lived around the corner in Elsternwick, and Sula, guessing I was busy with two small children, would often pop in to see if I needed something.

And then when I moved to Israel in 1982, Sula would visit and stay over on the Moshav (village). She would do her best to fit in with the locals and attend the small Yemenite Synagogue and chat happily with the hordes of little kids that gathered around her. She slept in a little bungalow next to our house that had no toilet. Thinking about it now, I hope it wasn’t too rough for her.

Sula was always sharp-witted and insightful. During those early years in Israel she sensed that times were tough for me. On one visit she asked me to take her to the big supermarket in the nearby town of Beit Shemesh. She grabbed the largest trolley and told me to fill it up with whatever I needed. It was such an exciting feeling. And it was the most thoughtful gift someone could have given me at the time.

Decades later and back in Australia, I used to visit Sula on Monday evenings after teaching Art. Mondays were long days. I was hungry and tired and it was always a treat to plonk myself at the kitchen table while Sula nurtured me.

First - chicken soup. Then boiled chicken or schnitzel with lightly fried potatoes, pickled cucumbers, and some salad. And finally a cup of tea - in those delicate glass cups with the silver holders. There would always be a big slice of sponge cake which she said came from the shop next to Glicks.

In between courses Sula would sit and we would chat. About the books she read, the movies she saw. Snippets about her family before the war, during and after the war. Dilemmas such as whether to move to Emmy Monash or stay home…

Those were precious hours. When it was time to go home - both of us - in different ways - felt attended to and happy.

That’s how it always felt with Sula.

About 1952. Early years in Australia. Dad & Mum, Sula, Celina

About 1963. Sula and me

1964, Nth Balwyn. June Shenfeld, me and Estelle.

1970s. Sula. piotrek, Marysia & David Prince

1988. Sula & Marysia

1990s. Sula, Adolek & Marysia

2019/2020. Visiting Sula at Emmy Monash.

It was one of mum's last visits to Sula before Covid

2019/2020. The last hug


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