Member Dorothy Langer recalls a trip of a lifetime that was inspired by her mother.
Ever since I was old enough to understand, I remember the story. How my mother was born in Berezne in 1913 in what is now Ukraine, how she lost her mother when she was only six years old. How my grandfather was in America trying to make his fortune when my grandmother died so very far away. How my mother and her three siblings were nurtured by their great aunt and uncle for eight years until they immigrated to the United States in 1927. (I’m named for that great aunt Dvorah!)
All my life, I heard about life in Berezne, and about my grandmother, Chaya Freidel Fineman, who died so young. And I heard and understood my mother’s lifelong yearning to return to Berezne to visit her mother’s grave. My mother died in 2001 at the age of 88, never having gone back. In August of 2008, I returned for her.
Berezne, once a small shtetl whose nearly 4,000 Jews were all slaughtered by the Nazis in 1942, is now a bustling little town. And what was the Jewish cemetery is now a public park. I was overwhelmed with emotion to stand on the ground where my grandmother’s bones are buried! I spread stones across the grass while naming my grandmother and my great-great aunt and uncle who had raised my mother. I said the Hebrew prayers for the dead. And I picked up a handful of earth from this hallowed ground to bring back with me.
When I got back to the States, I made a special trip to my parents’ graves in Florida. I showed my mother photos of what was once the Jewish cemetery in Berezne, and I lovingly scattered the soil from that cemetery over her grave.
Photo courtesy of Dorothy Langer