Photo Essay

     “Cioci Frenie, Felusia; Sopoty,20/9/1945” – “To Aunt Frenia, Felusia; Sopot, 9/20/1945”

     Thus reads the back of a photo I recently found while rummaging through my parents’ photo box.

     I am “Felusia,” and we did live in Sopot, Poland after liberation, but who is “Aunt Frenia”? I have no memories of her and have never heard my parents mention her. She could not be a real aunt, because the only one I had when the war started was murdered, probably in Belzec killing center. And, if the picture was for “Aunt Frenia,” what was it doing among my parents’ belongings? I am afraid that I will never know the answers to these questions.

     On the picture, I am five years old. It is a chilly, cloudy and dreary day. I stand on a pier in Sopot, Poland. The North Sea in the background adds to the dark mood of the shot. One can almost feel the cold wind blowing through my hair. I am holding my black-and-white checkered coat closed with my hands clasped in front of me. A big white bow sits on top of my hair; white knee socks and ankle-high lace-up shoes complete my outfit. It seems I remember that coat; it was thin and did not provide much warmth. The grimace on my face reflects the weather and the mood and is probably the best I could muster when told to smile.

     I should have been happy. The war was over. My father had found a nice apartment for us. He had even found a beautiful doll for me, my first. I remember the first time I saw her; my mother and I walked into the bedroom I shared with my parents, and there she was, enthroned on the big bed. She had long, black hair and wore a pink outfit trimmed with black lace with a matching hat. She looked like a true princess. I still remember my cry of joy and wonder when I saw this beautiful creature, but I do not remember having ever played with her. I guess I either felt that she was too precious to be handled or just simply that I did not know what to do with her.

     When I think back on those days, being happy is not a feeling that I remember. Loneliness is what comes to mind, and, when I look back at the picture now, I look stranded, abandoned, all alone on that dreary, windy day.

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