How lucky I am to be doing what I’m doing

Ronan LefkowitzViolinist, Boston Symphony Orchestra
[during "Arts of Tolerance” a series of workshops, performances and discussions organized by the Stories Exchange Project, 18-19 September 2000]
TerezinCzech Republic
Ronan Lefkowitz
Even before I heard all the details, I imagined exactly what they’re talking about here: the concept of sharing under great hardship, the life lessons that they learned.
Zuzana Podmelova Terezin survivor Lecturer, Jewish Museum, Prague
The most important thing for us – we were really sharing: we were sharing food.
It was such a wonderful school for our lives: it gave us a lot. I can’t say that I’m glad, but I changed here.
The Roma have the same problems we did, and they have to learn to share and help each other. I think they are able to do it.
Ronan Lefkowitz
We’re all aware of concentration camps which were indeed much worse than this place: much, much worse. It’s an interesting, almost unreal story this place tells.
I’ve been coming in contact with these people who lived here for the past ten or eleven years, and there are subtle changes that go on. As these people are lost, the ones that remain now were young when they were here, young adults at most and so many of them had very poignant experiences here.
They had not yet tasted life fully – and as Helga said, they had their first dances here, they had their first crush, someone they liked or even had a romance here, hard as that may be to imagine.
They get a special look on their faces, almost of joy – which is peculiar. But it was their youth.
So—- it’s still very moving. I was moved to tears just then when Helga and Zuzana were talking about saying good-bye to their family members.
I can’t imagine that.
Zuzana Podmelova
We lived in the attics. It was so hot, and there were so many people. It was so difficult [laughs]. We came from Prague and it was so complicated, you know: to queue for hygienic reasons and things like that. It was really like a dark dream.
But you knew that you had to go through it.
And I was young, and you were young, and we wanted to live: we wanted to overcome. And somehow we had the strength.
Helga Weissova-Hoskova Terezin survivor Painter, Prague
We had also some good remembrances.
We had our first dance. I had my first dance here.
So we remember such things, and we have forgotten the worst.
Zuzana Podmelova:
For me it was much worse, because I had to say goodbye to my whole family.
Here is the place where I had to say goodbye to these people, the closest of my heart. So it is very hard for me to talk about it and to be here.
But I know I have to overcome.
Helga Weissova-Hoskova:
It was the last time I saw my father.
He was in a transport three days earlier than my mother and I were, and we were told that the men were going to build a new ghetto. So we supposed we were going after him.
We have never found out where he died. Probably he went directly to the gas chamber.
Here was where I saw him for the last time.
Ronan Lefkowitz
The Roma’s style of music-making is very different from ours. For them it’s very direct: a thing of the moment: a thing of great joy, a way to express extremes of emotion and do it without introduction and without paying attention to abstract concepts as we do when we play.
We usually talk about details, but their approach is full of life. It’s a great release for them: a major part of their lives, a daily part of their lives.
I’m very proud to be playing this music here, communicating. I know that we are part of a bigger plan to get as many people as possible to know about Theresienstadt: to know that great creativity was going on, and how important creativity was to the people here.
I just e-mailed my children back in Boston.
When I was walking around Prague and saw the memorials to the resistance figures who had died and all those plaques, I immediately thought how important it is for us all to express ourselves in a creative way if we’re artistic, if we’re musical, or in any other way: that is such a life-affirming thing.
There’s never a day I wake up without thinking about how lucky I am to be doing what I’m doing.
[See also in “The Holocaust” menu of “Stories and Responses”:
 — “Does it open up your world?”: responses to Jewish and Romany music performed and discussed during ARTS OF TOLERANCE by Mark Ludwig, Ronan Lefkowitz’s colleague in the Boston Symphony Orchestra and Director of the Terezin Chamber Music Foundation, with further remarks by Terezin survivors Helga Weissova-Hoskova and Zuzana Podemlova
 — a conversation between Helga Weissova-Hoskova and Zuzana Podmelova, “It’s very close to us, the past.”
And see under “Terezin September 2000” in “Performances” Mark Ludwig’s remarks about music composed in Terezin, “What do they do? They create.”]

No Responses to “How lucky I am to be doing what I’m doing”

  1. Hi, this is an intriguing story!I came upon it as a part of my research into Holocaust Art as a part of my final year at school. I wonder if there are any possible links or email addresses anyone could give me in furthering my study. This is not only a topic I am interested in but…something all humans should learn about. Thankyou.

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