Thursday, November 09, 2006

Rozia Felner 1913 - 2006

Rozia Felner died on October 21 and was buried next to her husband in the cemetery on Slowackiego Street in Przemysl, Poland.

I met Rozia in 2003 on a family root trip to Poland with my mom and dad. (Here is a piece I wrote about the day we met her.) Three years later, I’ve been trying to figure out why all of us found her so intriguing, so special. In the same sentence she could go from warm to gruff. So much of her manner was somehow familiar, yet occasionally it drifted into a distant, foreign demeanor. Finally, with her death, its dawned on me: she’s my grandma Fannie who didn’t move to New York in the 20s, who stayed in Przemysl and survived the war and the Shoah.

Preserved in Rozia was the same sharp, often cutting intelligence all of my grandparents brought to America. And like Fannie, the full brunt of Rozia’s intellect was often manifested in humor. But unlike Fannie, who was living one version of the American dream, moving from the slums of the Lower East Side to the relative luxury of the Bronx, Rozia was hiding from the certain death of the Nazi Holocaust, locked for years in a sealed room in the house of a local Christian family. As Fannie grew older, she watched her daughter marry, educate herself to a PhD, and have me and my sister; Rozia never talked about her family and to the best of my recollection, there were no photos of kids or grandkids hanging on the concrete walls of her apartment. Her’s was a very hard life to live while trying to remain optimistic.

I’m told that Rozia was the last Jewess in Przemysl. I know it is trite to say that there will never be another like her, but in this case, it happens to be true. Rozia was the last first-person link to Jewish Przemysl, a place with untold centuries of Jewish history. With her passing, the lineage of the Jews of Przemysl ends; a very, very long chain is broken. Yet to me, she’s bigger than Przemysl, more than an alternate reality version of Fannie. Rozia Felner is every Jew’s grandmother if she never left Poland, Russia or Hungary – a reminder of where we all came from a scant 70 years ago, how close we came to being wiped out as a people, why we have to fight, why never again.

Rest in peace, Rozia.

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1 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

re ,Poland,-Independent Polish
People of Poland.pre submitted
sizeof original 1-oe million squar
kilometer's,not 120.728 squar km.
land retern back to Polish People,
re,General Swierczewski Karol
1943,end natzi,fashist..1947 year
in memory General Swierczewski.
in,addition General Sikorski,in memory bot h incidents rather suspeciouse.investigated.
Przemysl POLAND.
SENT ON Monday,4 May 2009 year.
Time,3.55pm. with out prejudice.
confidential.

3:57 PM  

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