Thursday, March 01, 2007

A Teddy Bear, the Holocaust and Darfur

Yesterday I was under the weather. All I wanted to do was sleep. After taking the son to school, I retreated to the bedroom, inviting Max the dog to join me, and stayed there until noon. After picking up the son, I rested again and then prepared a fine supper for the guys: baked salmon, bay scallops in linguine, at the son's request. I wasn't into eating - alarming in itself - so after they went off to Scouts, I shared a couple of pieces of toast with Max.

This morning I am fairly back to normal, thankfully. No queasy stomach or sleepiness. I just had a morning nosh of fresh out of the oven soft breadsticks and queso, caving into a cheesy craving. So far so good.

Sophie Turner-Zaretsky of New York is a Holocaust survivor. She donated a tiny teddy bear, named Refugee, to the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum. The bear was given to her by her mother when she was a child in Poland, during the war. The museum made a replica of the bear and allowed Mark Polansky, a NASA space shuttle commander, to take it into space aboard Discovery in December. Polansky wanted to use the gesture as a tribute to his father, Irving, who died in 2001. He also wanted to raise awareness about the current genocide happening in Darfur.

"It's probably the strangest phone call the museum ever got," Polansky said in the Washington museum Tuesday, according to an article in the Houston Chronicle. The museum made a call to Turner-Zaretsky and she happily, gratefully, complied with the request. "He hasn't got a Jewish mother," Turner-Zaretsky joked about Polansky, whose mother, Edith, is a native Hawaiian of Korean descent, according to the article.

Turner-Zaretsky spoke to Polansky for the first time Tuesday as Polansky returned the bear to the museum, attending a ceremony marking the occasion. She said she nervously monitored the Discovery trip into space on the NASA web site each day to make sure all were ok.

Turner-Zaretsky was born in Poland in 1937. Nazis forced her family into living in a ghetto in 1941, with her father then dying in 1942. She escaped with her mother, pretending to be Catholic and moved to England in 1948. She came to believe she was a Christian. She was traumatized to learn from her mother later in life that they were, in fact, Jews. So, in 1963 she started a new life as a medical student in the U.S.

Refugee, the teddy bear, accompanied Turner-Zaretsky on her journey.

"Traveled 5,330,398 miles," Polansky read from a certificate he gave Turner-Zaretsky. "In space 12 days, 20 hours, 45 minutes."

"Not bad for a bear."

Not bad at all.


srp said...

Some teddy bears are just more than special.

I hope you are feeling better. Yikes! You must be... somehow I can't imagine queso on a stomach flu stomach.. or just after.

Paul is a Hermit said...

I wish an astronaut would see some good reason to take me along on a shuttle flight...

Sophie's story is intensely interesting, as are all those from that time, when people could not understand why being born something was so vilely treated.
I'm happy she was able to live.
Further, that she lived here.

Be well, Karen. I become so hungry visiting you :)

AC said...

Karen, I hope you are better by today. You are a saint for feeling punky and still fixing dinner.
I often just point to the cheese drawer and the bread and the beer.

I hadn't heard this bear in space story but what a good one.

For some goofy reason, this line from Winnie the Pooh started up in my head,

"When having a smackerel of something with a friend, don't eat so much that you get stuck in the doorway trying to get out."

:-) Dinner sounded great!

Beverly said...

That's a neat story about the bear. I am in awe of Holocaust survivors and what they went through.

My physician of 30 some years was born in a displaced persons camp after the war. Her parents had been in a concentration camp.

When they came to the States, and she realized that libraries were free, she felt like she had been given such a gift.

colleen said...

Baby Jesus and the wiseguys...that was pretty funny!

Glad you're feeling better...up to eating cheese and reading the newspaper.

aka_Meritt said...

Had to comment on the dinner - we had linguine with clam sauce! Not by request though... LOL.

Beverly said...

This evening at our church, one of the members is going to be sharing about his experiences with his family when they helped hide Jewish families during the days of the Holocaust. I hope I can understand him because he still ha such a strong Dutch accent.

We must never forget.

Jennifer said...

I'm with Paul. I wish some astronaut would see how cuddly I am and take me along on a trip to space. :-)

You find the most beautiful stories to recount. I always feel enriched, nourished even, after a visit with you, in more ways than one.

Hope you are all well today.