Coincidence, karma or miracle? This story will make you wonder. It begins in a small village near present-day Ukraine amid war crimes committed by the German Nazis. A time in history that does not feel so long ago given the current news of war crimes in the region.
Near that village lies the dark primeval Białowieża Forest, straddling the borders of Poland and Belarus. Though it's described as “hauntingly beautiful” its tall trees and seemly endless marshlands have witnessed the harshest of evils.
At the outbreak of WWII, Miriam Rabinowitz lived in the small Polish town of Zhetel, (sometimes called Zdzięcioł) with her husband Morris and two daughters, Tania and Rochel.
Christians and Jews had lived peacefully in Zhetel for nearly 400 years, while the town was variously under the control of Belarus, Russia and Poland. In 1939, the population was roughly 4,600 and 75 percent were Jewish.
The Nazis arrived in the fall of 1939. They shipped skilled workers to workcamps and eventually to death camps. With the help of local police, they slaughtered most of the remaining Jewish residents, men women and children, in two consecutive mass shootings in the spring and summer of 1942.
Today a memorial stands on the remnants of the old Jewish cemetery, a fenced collective grave, in which the bodies of about two thousand people are buried, shot in this place by the Nazis on August 6, 1942.
I mentioned a short time ago, how the kaleidoscope of events in 2020 sent me into a bit of an emotional spin, prompting me to think more deeply about personal and public affairs.
One thing on my mind is media literacy. For the month of May, I'll be engaging people on social media about the topic of media literacy. I'll have Instagram Live interviews with experts and resources for adults and teens.
Have women always been warriors? And why does it matter anyway? That's the question we take up today with the help of a "brilliant storyteller."
That's what reviews say about Pamela D. Toler, PhD and her recent book Women Warriors: An Unexpected History.
From the time she was young, Pamela sought out stories of "smart/courageous/quirky/energetic girl protagonists and the few biographies of women that reached [her]
elementary school library."
Today the author has a PhD in history, and is praised for her rigorous research and accessible writing. Her books are for nerdy or inquisitive teens and thinking adults. (That's you, right?)
When I was a little girl, I loved to read about pioneers on the Oregon Trail. I came to identify with qualities I perceived in people who made that difficult journey.
They were bold, grasping freedom and opportunity. They were tough, pitting themselves against nature, gambling on their physical strength and mental acuity, and testing their will to survive.
When I worried about what had happened to the Native peoples whom the pioneers displaced, I was given a vague answer, "It's too bad what happened, but it's progress and you can't stop progress."
From my perspective now, I would not call westward expansion human progress. And my focus now is on Indigenous people's amazing will to survive. I'm identifying myself with the qualities of compassion, good listening skills and the ability to see history more clearly.
As a writer and lover of books, I'm also working to amplify voices that have long been ignored.
I'm fascinated to discover little-known history, stories of people and events that provide a new perspective on why and how things happened, new voices that haven't been heard, insight into how the past brought us here today, and how it might guide us to a better future.
I also post here about my books and feature other authors and their books on compelling and important historical topics.
Occasionally, I share what makes me happy, pictures of my garden, recipes I've made, events I've attended, people I've met. I'm always happy to hear from readers in the blog comments, by email or social media.