My family and I have been going through some turmoil.  I am confident we will prevail.  I know things will get better soon and wounds will heal.  I know that “this too shall pass.”

A family member sent me an email today reminding me that whatever is happening now is not nearly the bottom.  I think of those families mourning over the loss of loved ones on 9/11 and the hard times that existed for all those who came before us.  I feel comforted by the fact that I am truly standing on the shoulders of giants.

Here is the memory (names removed or changed to protect their identity):

When things seem at their worst remember your forebears.  I’m thinking of your grandfather and great grandfather.  Your great grandfather was born in 1882 and fought in World War I.   He became very well to do running a garage in Czernowitz which changed from Austro-Hungary to Romania in his youth. The country changed and the language and government changed. From straight-laced Austria to a country where baksheesh or bribery ruled.  In 1941, when he 54, the Russians came and in two days took over all the businesses. Your great grandfather gave them the key to his shop and his home and the entire family left on two days notice with only a suitcase.

Your grandfather who was drafted into the Romanian army spent the war in an American POW camp after being wounded.  My mother did not know where he was until after the war ended.  To find him she had to walk to Linz over the Alps in the winter — crossing the border without papers from Germany to find the Red Cross headquarters that listed POWs.

When he cam back we were all on welfare from 1945 to 1952.  In Germany people on welfare have to work — his job in winter and summer was to dig up the roots of huge trees that were destroyed during the bombing of Kassel. We all lived in one room in the home of a farmer who was ordered by the town to take in one refugee family. The bathroom was an outhouse.

In 1952, my father was 39 when we came to the US — we were sponsored by a Ukrainian family.  He had to work at Domino Sugar hauling 50 – 100 bags of sugar for 40 hours a week — they told him he could not get a raise because he did not speak English.  We all lived in a two rooms with no heat or hot water — a coldwater flat.  We thought we were lucky because we had an inside bathroom for the first time and did not have to use the toilet in the hallway shared by 4 other families.

In 9 years we owned a house in Queens and he was well on his way to a BA from the local college.  He worked as a senior structural checker whose meticulously drafted plans were used for hugh earth moving machines in Chile and Arizona and everywhere huge mining complexes were build.  His disappointment in life was that he could not become a social worker and journalist — one because of the pay and the other because none of us have figured out how to write something to get published.

So remember — when you think things are tough — you come from tough people who survived war and famine; people who lost home and country and were refugees and didn’t know the language.  And they made it to the next job.