My mother was born on 30th April 1930 in a tiny village called Bhutz in the Carpathian Mountains. The Nazi’s first came to round up the 100 Jews in the village in 1942 but they evaded capture by hiding in the mountains aided by the local Romanians. In 1945 the Nazi’s returned and this time hiding was futile, she was taken to a ghetto with her mother, older brother and 3 younger siblings. Soon after they were transported to Auschwitz where her mother and the younger children were selected and immediately sent to the gas chamber. My mother was separated from her brother Chaskiel who did survive.
After surviving the Death March from Auschwitz to Bergen-Belsen she was finally liberated by British soldiers in 1945 aged just 15 years old.
Miraculously her brother found her and together they were brought as part of ‘The Boys’ to Ireland and then England in 1945. My mother trained as a dressmaker, married Phin Levy and had two children. Today at the age of 84 she still teaches dressmaking.
In the summer of 2013, I had the unique and powerful opportunity to travel alongside my Grandmother into the countryside of Ukraine and rediscover the village she called home as a child. To identify with my personal history through the exploration of physical place was one of the most surreal experiences. As a member of the 3rd generation I, alongside my younger brother, had the rare opportunity to not only hear my Grandmother’s story of survival but to stand beside her as she rediscovered the land on which she was raised.
There are few words that can describe the impact that trip made on me, it went beyond the retelling of a story of survival and became the reclamation of a story of childhood happiness. Survivors are defined by the life changing experience that was the Holocaust, but I hope we as the 3rd generation can carry the stories of happiness and innocence of childhood alongside the stories of sadness, resilience and endurance. This quilt square represents what I pictured in my own mind as my Grandmother described her memories of Behutz to me. A family owned mill alongside a river, nestled in a green valley – a beloved home to my Grandmother.
Hannah Levy House