Today Is For Remembering
Being of a certain age this date is a reminder of a major event during WW II.
June, 6, 1944 was also known as “D – Day.” It marked the Allied invasion of the European continent leading to the defeat and destruction of Nazi Germany and the end of the war in Europe. That all came to a conclusion a little more than one year prior to my birth in July 1946.
While I was only a glimmer in my father’s eye on June 6, 1944 I grew up surrounded by the people who fought in that war. I knew men who had stormed those French beaches on that June day. Some of them would talk about it – most would not. Most of those men, when I first knew them, were in their late Twenties – still young men who carried memories of that war forever.
Tens of millions of people, worldwide, died in that war. They died in combat as soldiers. They died in the chaos of bombing raids or the sweeping onslaught of armies. Many died because they were the targets of insanity given free rein. Millions more died because the world left them behind in the wake of the war to starve or to just disappear in the dust.
Growing up in that small town after the war I knew the Survivors. I knew the young men who had gone away and returned. I knew men and women who had lived through the horror, but had no place to go when the shooting stopped. Some had numbers tattooed on their arms. Some had only their names. Their homes had been lost in the war. Whole nations disappeared in the war. Nations that were there before the war were gone – erased from the maps of the world. The people who had lived in those nations were now adrift. They were alive – and that was all they could prove.
In my youth they were known as “Displaced Persons” or “DPs” for short. Some of them ended up in my little town. Local churches helped them to find shelter, clothing, and food – a place to start over.
I remember a Mr. Liskin, a Master Photographer who was the only member of his family to survive the Death Camps. I remember a Mr. Koberski who came to Beaver Falls from Poland. He came to town with only the clothes on his back. He eventually opened a small store selling bread, milk and a little candy. His store was little bigger than a one-car garage He had his store and lived alone. I heard that years later, long after I had moved away, when he was an old man, he closed his store and moved back to Poland, but not until the Soviets had left. He went home, but on his terms. He truly was a Survivor.
These are the people and events that I think about when June 6th comes around. There are other things, better things, attached to that date, but my memories of the aftermath of World War Two arise to the surface first because I was surrounded by the lives, voices, and faces of the Survivors.