Members of My Family


There Is No One Left To Remember Them Except For Myself


My Memory Is That Of A Five Year Old Child



               Why Now? Why me? Is it their ghosts? My ghosts?


         I was not quite five years old when I met them for the first and last time. There was the mother and her two young children (older than myself). They are all images, snap shots without names or identities. All I am left with are just one blurred image of them sitting on the front porch steps of my grandparents’ home on Sherriff Street in Freehold, New Jersey.

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My father and mother, myself and my brother Ted sitting on those same front porch steps. 

About 1931.


             What images can I withdraw from my memory bank that will tell me more about them? Not much. What I know—what I think I know is that they came on a visit from their country, Lithuania. Was there a father? Perhaps, but not on this visit and not that I know of.



         Some information about them I may have heard years later when it was learned that 195,000 Lithuanian Jews out of a Jewish population of 210,00 were exterminated by the Nazis and local Lithuanian sympathizers.


         I remember My Uncle Julius saying that he had tried to convince our relatives from Lithuania to stay in the United States and to become citizens. They were unconvinced. Lithuania was their country and their village was their home. They went back to live just another ten years.


         How can I erect a monument to their memory? What will I inscribe upon that ephemeral marker that floats in a nowhere space with 195,000 other blank markers? Look who is their chronicler, an 86-year-old man with a five year- old child’s memory. There is no one else. And so I will try. 


         There was another family that of Nathan Lopatin (my great uncle), his wife and two children who were all killed by a train in June of 1914. (See Two Killer Trains). I knew more about him (not much about his wife and two children) and his flight from Russia than I did our relatives from Lithuania.


Why Now?


         Six million Jews were murdered by Hitler and his followers. Three of that six million were a mother and her two children who are calling out to me, reminding me that they are blood of my blood and pleading with me not to be forgotten. Sounds melodramatic. It does and is. So was their dying.


         If I could speak with them I would say, “I don’t know you, I don’t know anything about you not even your names. How were we related?”

         And they would reply, “Does it matter?” 

         And I would reply, “I thought it did. Where do I begin?” 

         And a Voice whispers,  “It begins, for you, on the front porch steps of the house on Sherriff Street in Freehold, New Jersey in 1933.”


         I take what very little I know about them as I begin to construct their memorial. I know (fairly certain) that they were urged to immigrate to America and decided to remain in Lithuania. I know that there were two children who, if they had come to this country, most like would have raised families who would have had families who would have raised families ad infinitum.


         So, is my memorial to what might have been? No. That is hardly a component for a memorial. There is a Jewish expression: WHAT IS...IS  – and- WHAT ISN’T...ISN’T. (It’s more expressive in Yiddish) The memorial must be about what is or rather, what was and I add what might have been.


         Their memorial must read, along with the murdered 195 thousand Jews of Lithuania and six million Jews of all Europe an admonishment: We who live must remember. We who live have a moral obligation to remember as best we can even if those memories are of faceless, nameless ghosts. Just the smallest, most obscure fragment of a memory fragment is enough to recognize them above the towering mounds of the faceless dead.  


         And so I try to remember those fragments, as best I can, so that they, the mother and her two children, blood of my blood, will not be lost and forgotten in my hazy, childhood memory and in my passing.


Bob Flicker



 © robert 2014