Thursday, November 27, 2014

What does it mean to be "family?"

What does it mean to spend Thanksgiving with "family?" Blood may be thicker than water, but love is thicker than blood. Helena Weglowski and Mira Wexler know what "family" means.

When Mira and Helena were children, Mira's parents lived and worked on the Weglowski farm in Poland. The Wexlers were Jewish. The Weglowskis were Catholic. The girls were best friends. After Nazis occupied Poland, all Jews including the Wexlers were sent to a ghetto in Ludwipol, now part of Ukraine. Mira's Dad was killed, so Mira and her Mom escaped back to the Weglowski farm, where they remained hidden for two years. Helena and her family would have been killed if the Nazis knew they were harboring Jews. Sometimes Mira and her Mom hid outside in the forest near the farm, and Helena would bring them winter clothing and hot food. Sometimes they came inside the Weglowski farmhouse to rest and be warmed. When the war ended, they moved to Brazil, where Mira's Mom passed away some years later.

Helena (left) and Mira
The girls had not met for 70 years, until they were reunited this week by the New York-based Foundation for the Righteous, which honors Gentiles who risked their lives to care for Jews during the Holocaust. "I couldn't even dream this moment would happen," said Mira, who was flown to NYC from her home in Brazil. Soon after Helena came through customs from Poland, the women saw each other in a briefing room at JFK airport. Smiles swept across their faces, followed by tears of joy. "I'm extremely happy to see Mira again," Helena said. "The war destroyed everything, but now we can be together." They celebrated Thanksgiving this week together, as family.

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