The Survivor

The following is the eulogy that my sister and I wrote for our father who recently passed away. He was a holocaust survivor and man of strength, generosity, and character. His spark for life, charisma, and the twinkle in his eye live on.

Our dad was a survivor.

I once asked him how he was able to keep going in life despite so many hardships. I’ll never forget his quick and simple response – “You just don’t give up… I wanted to have a home.”the survivor

the survivorOur dad was born in Sacel, Romania on April 4, 1930, though there is much mystery and speculation around his actual date of birth. His family who relocated to Israel has told us that he was actually born in 1928 which would have made him 85 years old.

The mystery around his actual date of birth is due to the fact that our father is a holocaust survivor and given the horror of these events he was unsure about his actual birth year, and did not have access to his birth certificate upon liberation.

Following the war our dad spent some time in Sweden and Winnipeg before making a home for himself in Saskatchewan.  Here, he first worked as a furrier and finally found his home working at the Regina General Hospital for 27 years.  Though his two brothers that survived the holocaust would have loved to have had him in Israel with them, they told him, “You’ve been through hell. Make a good life for yourself in Canada.”

Our dad was a survivor.

He had a fighting spirit. He was firm in his word and would not waiver from it when dealing with others. When he was liberated and moved to Sweden he was taken in by a nice family who wanted to adopt him. Who wouldn’t want to adopt him with his wavy, slicked-back hair, freckles, and the twinkle in his eye? The thing was, they wanted him to take on their last name. Our dad kindly refused. Being Jewish he later told us, “I suffered and fought for that name and I will die with that name.”

When faced with confrontation about being Jewish, even in this multicultural country of Canada, our five-foot three father (with his shoes on) had no problem putting people in their place. One of our favourite stories was when our dad first came to Regina and was called a DP (or a displaced person) by a man at a local social club.  What did dad do about it? Well… he landed a one-punch knockdown and gained the respect of the man laying at his feet. the survivor

Dad wasn’t an angry person by any means.  He was a very smart person.  He stood up for himself and he would stand up for anyone or anything that didn’t deserve to be harmed.  Some of you might remember our beloved dog, Fritzi.  Well, she didn’t come to us all fluffy and cute.  She came to us as a neglected dog living in the backyard of a friend’s neighbours’ house.  Dad always had a heart for kids and animals and when he heard about this poor little dog, he knocked on the owner’s house and said “I see you’re selling your house.  What are you going to do with that dog?”  They didn’t seem to have too many answers so Dad gave them 50 bucks and a half pack of smokes and the dog was ours.  She soon became Dad’s best friend.  After all, he was the only one who would spoil her with Shreddies and cheese. the survivor

When it came to family, Dad was firm, but we always knew we had some wiggle-room.  For instance, when we wanted to borrow the car, his immediate response was “NO”. We would plead a little and eventually he would smile, put his hand in his pocket for the keys and say, “Okay here…”.ModernHouseDad Car

It was the same story every time we wanted to book a flight for him and mom to come visit us in Toronto. Dad would say, “NO,” and give mom a hard time about it, then slowly his decision would soften and he’d say, “Okay, but only for a week.”

It was even the same when he was in the hospital just one week ago.  We all thought he was still going strong but there was an air of uncertainty.  We asked if we should be taking the next flight home.  He said “NO.”  He never wanted us to spend our money unnecessarily, but this time it was our turn to say “NO” and be with him ‘til the very end.

Dad wanted to give his family a good life by providing us with opportunities that he never had growing up.  He and mom gave us such a wonderful life by making sure we had “what to eat,” taking us on summer vacations to South Dakota in our big brown station wagon, buying himself cheap velcro shoes from Zellers so he could afford to buy me [his son] Air Jordans, coming out to all our sporting events, and most of all being our biggest cheerleaders.  I will always remember the time we won the Super-Hoops basketball tournament on the last shot of the game. My dad was the first one to storm onto the court high-stepping and clapping with glee. the survivor

Another epic sporting memory was the championship game of the Centennial Cup, which was an important hockey tournament at the time. We were down by a few goals. Dad came into the dressing room during the second intermission (as he often did with a Coffee Crisp bar for me to eat), but this time he also piped up and told the team, “You’re playing like donkeys. Smarten up.” We ended up winning that game and my friends kept saying it was because of the to-the-point pep-talk we got from my dad.

Dad will always be our hero.  He taught us how to be strong in hardship, how to overcome obstacles, stand our ground, and to never give up until you find what you’re looking for in life. It took him 49 years, but he finally found our mother, his teammate in life, and spent the last 36 years enjoying what he always strived to have: a good home and a loving family.the survivor

A survivor until the very end,

my dad fought for a few more hours of life to see my wife and son as they rushed in from Toronto.  He successfully planted one last kiss on his little pride-and-joy’s forehead. the survivor

Then to prove his love for his family he did something amazing, only a couple hours before passing on. He asked us to help him out of bed and to his feet. He stretched his arms wide open and hugged me, my mom, and sister one last time. A man of strength, love, and unforgettable character, we love you, dad, with all our hearts, and don’t you ever forget it.

the survivor

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