The worst experience for me was missing my mother and the feeling that you are completely alone… and that was the most difficult.
Lydia Maksymowicz, a child Survivor of Auschwitz explains what life was like in the concentration camp.
One of the most heartbreaking moments in her retelling of her story was the mention of the pregnant women who gave birth to their babies; they were immediately taken from their mothers and either drowned or given a fatal injection.
She said she remembers vividly a women hand expressing her breastmilk on to a spoon and feeding it to her, understanding that if this milk could not be used to nourish her own infant who was taken from her and murdered, that it could help nourish the other children in the camp.
She remembers her own mother coming in to her barracks to try to give her food. Lydia told her that she didn’t want the much-needed food, her only request was that her mother just stay with her, which was asking for the impossible given the circumstances.
I was left with gratitude that Lydia was willing to retell her story. What I feel I learned from it was the unimaginable strength of the women of Auschwitz which kept many children of the camp alive. I can’t imagine the strength that woman and the others like her must have had to lose their child in the most violent and inconceivable way, and still have the fortitude to press on and give to the other children who were still living, and suffering. I also cannot imagine the pain Lydia’s mother must have felt, who would have gladly starved to give her child her ration of food, yet in the moments they are allowed to be together, all she hears from her daughter is that she would gladly go hungry just to keep her near. And what strength Lydia had to be able to bear the burden of these memories, to realize she needed to leave with another woman after the liberation, knowing her mother was gone.
This is the strength of children and mothers that I pray none of us will ever have to witness in ourselves, but I cannot thank Lydia Maksymowicz enough for the way she has honored the past as well as given us a lesson about motherhood and humanity.