‘We all have a choice – to be good and do good’
By Susan Shinn
CHINA GROVE ó Sixth-graders at China Grove Middle School have been studying “The Devil’s Arithmetic,” a book about the Holocaust. They had the opportunity on Tuesday to submit written questions to Holocaust survivor Suly Chenkin.
Q. “Was there anything that gave you hope?”
A. “I was just a child,” Chenkin said. “I was very afraid when I was given away.
“I remember people being kind to me.”
She remembered seeing beautiful sunflowers as she rode trains from place to place with her foster mother. Someone in Russia gave her money to have a new coat made.
By the time she arrived in Cuba, she said, “I remember being treated like a princess.”
Q. “What were you thinking during the time you were hiding?”A. “I was just very, very frightened. I kind of was like encapsulated in myself. I was a shy child afterward.”
But, she said, she was never afraid of the dark.
Q. “What was it like not having your parents to take care of you?”A. “It was heartbreaking. Every day, I was saying to them, ‘Don’t send me out today.’ I was trying so hard not to leave them.”
Q. “At one point, were you ever close to being caught?”
A. “Probably when I was in the potato sacks. I could have woken up and started crying.”
Another time, she accidentally spoke in Yiddish instead of Lithuanian, and could have been caught had someone other than her foster mother heard her.
Q. “Are there any lifelong effects of your experience?”
A. “There are a lot of effects, but I was very lucky,” Chenkin said. “I was always with somebody who cared for me. Miriam gave me a lot of love while we were in Israel.
“My parents were true survivors. They taught me how to love and be compassionate.
“My father chose to remember the good parts. We all have a choice ó to be good and do good.”
Q. “How do you treat people, now after your experience?”
A. “I think it’s made me a better person,” Chenkin said. “I’m not indifferent to people.”
Chenkin called Hitler a loser and a bully. While she may not necessarily stand up to a bully, she could stand with a victim, she said.”When a victim has a friend, they’re not a victim anymore,” she said. “Do not be indifferent.
“You have to be aware how lucky you are to live in this wonderful country. You don’t want to be a bully and you don’t want to make things worse for anybody.”