Ok- we don't really need to talk about how long the letter was. So let's talk about my second point: we learn a lot about the slowly closing borders around Ella as she keeps looking for a way out. August reports that the Palestinian borders are closing due to Britain's nervousness about German spies. I understand the fear- but this is a very big deal for many Jews- including a handful in my family. Hans and Hilda (who are Emma's parents) are unable to go, and Ella is given no chance. This part also taught me something I didn't know: that Britain had control over Palestine for a short while in recent history. I should have known that- but I had to go look that up and read up on it! The British really have had their hands in every pot haven't they? No wonder American films are filled with British villains- haha. (I know- there are a thousand other reasons.)
Switzerland might be neutral, but they sure aren't neutral about who is allowed inside their country: rich people! August passes along the tip that perhaps Italy is a place to escape to (and he says it skeptically). This frantic searching for a place to go- any place to go- shows how scared Ella is.
I'm writing this blog in the height (we hope it doesn't get worse) of the Syrian refugee crisis. We live in a time when the news is instantaneous. We have drone planes showing us aerial views of the refugee camps. We have images of drowned families with young children washing ashore. Yet the borders are still closing. The help is still slow. The hands are still tied. This makes me angry. I am researching the best options for my family to help the refugees fleeing the Syrian civil war. I will do something- but I feel helpless. I feel like I can throw money at the crisis, but the borders will still be too closed, the fear of the unknown and unfamiliar will still keep refugees fenced out/in/around. We look back at the Jewish genocide and think "we should have done better"- why can't we do better today? I don't understand why we fear our neighbors so much.
When I met with Lucile, Opa's little girlfriend at McPherson, she and I talked about how we felt like we'd known each other for longer than twenty minutes. We talked about how we are all connected (humanity) and that the more we see this connectedness, the more grace, mercy, love can abound. This is why people are so drawn to the work of the photographer behind Humans of New York. This man photographs ordinary people throughout one of the most diverse cities and tells just a snippet of their story. We are drawn in by the photos and captions because we see ourselves. We see something familiar in a face that looks very unfamiliar. We feel connected. When this photographer was given grants to travel abroad and took pictures in Iran and other countries that Americans are wary of or only hear bad news from- he did the same miraculous thing: he took pictures of ordinary people and they told their stories- and we felt connected. We felt familiar. We saw something we knew. We are all connected. That refugee family that drowned, they were scared people escaping something beyond their control, and the images of their town showed us that to stay would have been certain death. That family is our family. We are connected.
Oy- back to 1940. August hopes that the German advance gets stalled in Norway, his situation is good right now and a German invasion certainly would shift that. I wonder if he has a feeling for the inevitability of the invasion reaching Holland. He must know that the danger is very real, because he is thinking about escape plans for he and Emma- hoping to hop a ship reserved for the Americans- although he knows that this is sort of wishful thinking.
I do love that August asks Opa if he can get a New York newspaper. Clearly he doesn't think that Kansas is doing it right.
So the last thing I wanted to note was the mention of the "letter Secret"- Opa had mentioned at some point (later in life) that he had some secret codes that he and his family had used. I never really could see that in the letters- so I kind of forgot about it and figured that Opa was just filling in the story. But here August says something that makes me think maybe there was a code! And now I wish I was smart enough to read original German and crack codes. Maybe some of those random things August wrote were actually code?!
Oh my goodness- I just made the connection with the egg-boiling comment from that last letter from Patti! Here August talks about it- and laughs that the girl (we're guessing Lucile) that Opa took the road trip with insisted on cleaning something before they cooked the eggs. So they must have cooked some eggs on the car! Or maybe this is a really weird secret code. Hahaha.
August is still hoping for that cabin in the woods, and now he wants it stocked with money so he can travel with his wife.
I can't help but think- things are about to be drastically different for August and Emma.