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Krystyna’s Gift—A Memoir

- Abstract

Lydia Aran I have no clear or systematic recollection of the dates or the order of events from this chapter of my life some 60 years ago. My memory is fragmentary, and I can summon up only isolated moments and situations, like single beads on an invisible thread of time. Yet some are inexplicably vivid and clear, and I feel a strange certainty about the accuracy of my recall. What I remember best is the emotional tone. Is this not what bearing witness is about?

My twin sister and I were born in 1921, in Vilnius, the capital of Lithuania, just one year after it was captured by the Poles. Our given names were Meena and Liah; we would much later change them to Monica and Lydia, the names under which we had lived during the Nazi occupation. Vilnius—or Vilna, to use the name by which Jews knew it—remained part of the Polish state only until 1939, when, following a secret agreement between the USSR and Germany, it became the capital of the Lithuanian republic of the Soviet Union. In its long history, the city had changed hands several times; but its elites and most of its population had always been Polish, and from the 15th century on it was an important center of Polish culture and learning.

About the Author

Lydia Aran, is a specialist in Buddhism who taught in the department of Indian studies at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem until her retirement in 1998. Her books include Buddhism: An Introduction to Buddhist Philosophy and Religion (Hebrew, 1993) and a forthcoming study of the Chinese-Tibetan conflict. She is at work on an account of her first year as an illegal immigrant in Mandate Palestine.