Building the characters in Amanda’s life in Is This Me?, I wanted to create a character she gathered strength from other than a primary family unit member. Amanda shared a close relationship with her mother, father, and sisters but sometimes felt left out because of her love of languages and different coloring and stature. Using a grandparent from a another heritage explained her physical features and gave her a person to relate to. I tried to make it clear in Is This Me? that Amanda felt very close with her father’s mother, who she calls Bubbe. Initially the idea came from a friend who had a bubbe (Yiddish for grandmother) she adored. Then, my neighbor told me her mother’s story over an Easter dinner. I was so moved, the story became Bubbe’s story.
The Euvre de Secours aux Enfants, French for Children’s Aid Society, or OSE was a French Jewish humanitarian organization. The OSE was originally the OZE (Obshchetsvo Zdravookhraneniya Yevreyiev (Organization for the health protection of Jews), and was originally formed in Saint Petersburg but spread to other countries. In 1923 the organization relocated to Berlin with Albert Einstein as its symbolic president. In 1933, it relocated again in France and became the Euvre de Secours aux Enfants (Society for Rescuing Children).
During World War II, the OSE sheltered many Jewish children whose parents were killed or sent to concentration camps. My neighbor’s mother was one of these. The children were housed in large mansions and schooled and trained according to their age. After the war, many of the children were relocated to the United States, with family possible. Her mother’s mother and sister were living in the United States and they were reunited.
My neighbor shared with me a book written by Katy Hazan, shown in the image above, that talks about the orphanages and lists names of the children that were housed there including her mother. Much of what we learn about this era is the horrible tragedy of the war and for me this is an example of the good side of humanity.
Leaning about our family histories has been shown to be beneficial in many ways. Sarah Lowe of FamilySearch.org wrote: “Because family teaches us the basic, fundamental beauty of humanity. There are three things getting to know one’s family teaches us about ourselves. First, it helps us deal with our own challenges; we can pull ourselves so thin at times we forget what it is that holds us together. Tracing the life of an ancestor can teach us a lot about the strength of being human. Second, it teaches us sympathy. We all have a tendency to slowly get impatient, to get busier and to lose a bit of sympathy. When our heart goes out to those who came before us, our heart turns towards those we come in contact with each day.” (https://familysearch.org/node/1102)
An article on CNN.com read: “A study conducted at Emory University and published in 2010 involved asking children a range of questions such as whether they knew where their parents met and where they grew up and went to school. The authors found that the more children knew about their family history, the higher their self-esteem and the better able they were to deal with the effects of stress. … That's the beauty of genealogy… "It's eye-opening, and it makes you much more aware how interconnected we all are. It's much harder to be racist and narrow-minded when you see how closely linked all the races are." (http://www.cnn.com/2015/06/03/living/telling-kids-family-history-benefits-feat/)
My grandfather was of Spanish descent and my grandmother was of English descent. My grandmother’s claim to fame is that she was related to the cousin of Sir Francis Drake, Charles Drake. The story in our family was that Sir Francis Drake fought my grandfather’s relatives of the Spanish Armada in 1588. To the Spaniards, he was a pirate, El Draque, with a $6.5M ransom on his head. So was Sir Francis Drake a hero or pirate? It depended on whose side you were on.
All the best,