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The Abandoned
A Life Apart from Life

by Evelyn Ripp ©2010, Paperback, ISBN: 978-1-935232-18-6, 200 pp
 

Like so many survivors of the Holocaust, Evelyn Romanowsky Ripp's first memories are of a world that is lost forever, destroyed amid savage brutality. Her home town, Lachva, is only a small speck on most maps, yet it was the center of a vibrant Jewish life before the war. Its pre-war life is described here with great charm, evoking a lost age, a lost world. 

In 1942 that world came to an abrupt and vicious end. With great feeling, Evelyn Ripp tells the story of the Lachva ghetto. Her poems tell much more, starting with the line: "I've been silent so long." She is silent no more. All those interested in Jewish history will be grateful to her for her words and verses. 

Sir Martin Gilbert, Historian

Foreword
A Word of Explanation
Prose
A Life Apart From Life
Poems
Why I Write
Lawlessness
German Invasion
Gretchko
Grandfather¬Ļs Tears
New Decrees
No One Escaped
Children in the Ghetto
Grandpa Escaped Murder
Ghetto Uprising, 
I See Germans Shooting
Premonition of a Twelve-Year-Old
No Shoes
The Pripet Marshes 
We Escaped
Hunted 
Mosquitoes
The Pripet River
Kirush
Fireflies
Blitzkrieg
June , 
Nioma
Defying the Odds
Begging
Stepanetchko
Winter, 
Trees
Stealing Potatoes
Hunger Won Out
Back in Lachva, 
Final Solution
Displaced Persons: Camp Föhrenwald, 
Memories of My Father
Learning ³American²
The Power of Fear
The World Stood Silent
Haunted
In Place of Them
Reparations
Shoah Legacy
Visitations
Postscript
In One Moment I Was Robbed
Summing Up
Confronting God: A Monologue
Past Present
Past Perfect
Sabbath Afternoons
Childhood Memory
Credo
Faded Photographs
Talk Therapy
Dichotomy
Untitled
Support Group
Motherpoem
First Day of School
I Want to Be Free
Aftermath
Elizabeth Sarah, July , 
Reunion: Lachva Ghetto Survivors, Israel, June l
Thanksgiving, 
Monument at Moriah
Fragments of Memory
The Red Dress
Photographs
Prose
Lachva Revisited
Poems
The Mass Grave
Lachva Now
The Old Cemetery
Partisan Pisarevitch
Photographs
Maps

Why I Write

I've been silent so long, 
Now I'm obsessed. 
Language is wanting, 
But I must struggle
To put it in words. 

I write to justify my survival
Summoned by the millions who died. 
I write to testify, 
To take the world, and God, to task
For their silence. 
I write to search for answers, 
For release and for repair, 
Lest my grief spill over. 


I See Germans Shooting

I see Germans shooting
And I see the slain
A bloody stampede
Children knocked down
T r a m p l e d
My baby cousins
Cheva, Friedka, Niusia and Dovik
A human tidal wave
Streaming toward the ghetto gate
Tearing it off its hinges
Spilling out over it
Into the open market square
Into SS machine gun fire
My mother and older sister are there
Then I don't see them any more

Father never let go
Of my little sister's hand
I ran by myself
Somehow
We took the same path
We met


Visitations

Memories come pouring forth
At night, 
As if only darkness befits that 
Horrid source, 
Which has irrevocably dimmed my life. 
Waiting for sleep in my bed, 
Nightclothes drenched in cold sweat, 
They
Come gliding through the wall
And hover overhead, 
Ghosts
Of my murdered family. 
R e l e n t l e s s 
Voices In the quiet of the room
Compel me to pay heed to them. 

Summoned thus, 
My fragile psyche's undermined, 
Even as I long for dawn 
And light.

It is clear from the outset that Evelyn Ripp writes to bear witness -- to record the sordid truth in all its tragic, yet often bittersweet detail. Truth and honesty are hard won. Both require extraordinary courage to face unbearable pain in the service of history and humanity.

As human beings our wish is to hide, to protect our selves from what we know, to protect our families from what we saw and felt. We work to block, to forget, to hide, and when forgetting is impossible, we silence ourselves. We lock the pain deep in our psyches and hearts and bear it alone -- hopeful that silence will quiet it -- or, at least contain it. But, the Shoah pain in its breadth and scourge cannot be contained.

Evelyn Ripp's The Abandoned recounts in searing detail the horrors of Nazi brutality toward an innocent people. We wish to turn away from such vast a horror. But Ripp forces the reader to feel the cruelty, and to be repelled and terrified each step along the way. With excruciating honesty, the writer reveals that life so that we ache, feel assaulted, and are filled with rage, yet rendered powerless. Ripp's gift lies in her choice of detail, her willingness to tell stories that touch us most profoundly: fathers sleeping with axes under their pillows, the killing of a young man for his eyeglasses, the heartbreak of a mother's and sister's disappearance, the call for people to present themselves before firing squads, the steady and systematic destruction of a town. All of this called forth from the life of an eleven-year-old girl. We are forced to live beside the children for two years in the forest, foraging for food with them, and then she startles us with childish play in the midst of deprivation.

As readers, we are threatened then empowered by a spirit that is vulnerable, and by the writer's enduring love of beauty, humor, compassion and the life force that celebrates small victories and occasional kindness. We are grateful to the Christians who hid Jews, and we revel in the ghetto's resistance and uprising: its will to destroy itself rather than face extermination. Together with her, we are terrorized by nightmares, long to buy a Red Dress, rail at God Where were You when gold teeth/Were ripped from jaws/When women and children were shot/And buried half alive, feel the survivor's guilt My joy is joy confined, and againWe ran for our lives/Under German fire/They fell/And I go on/I wake tormented/I live in place of them.

And later,
But for the record,
There will always be
In the convex mirror
Of the Shoah,
The likeness of me,
Eyes bursting toward Heaven,
Mouth pried open
By a scream.

Joan Cusack Handler, Psychologist and Poet


Like so many survivors of the Holocaust, Evelyn Romanowsky Ripp's first memories are of a world that is lost forever, destroyed amid savage brutality. Her home town, Lachva, is only a small speck on most maps, yet it was the center of a vibrant Jewish life before the war. Its pre-war life is described here with great charm, evoking a lost age, a lost world. In 1942 that world came to an abrupt and vicious end. With great feeling, Evelyn Ripp tells the story of the Lachva ghetto. Her poems tell much more, starting with the line: "I've been silent so long." She is silent no more. All those interested in Jewish history will be grateful to her for her words and verses.

Sir Martin Gilbert, Historian


Poetry is not the conventional genre for describing the Holocaust, but here it is used with great skill and passion. The reader will long remember these beautiful poems. The Abandoned: A Life Apart from Life is an important contribution to Holocaust literature and I highly recommend it.

Dr. Stephen M. Berk, Professor of Holocaust and Jewish Studies


Evelyn Ripp's poetry takes us to the edge of the abyss and forces us to look down. The immediacy and intimacy of Evelyn's poems humanize the statistics, helping us to understand her experiences and to empathize with her attempts to integrate them into her still-haunted life today. This volume makes an excellent addition to any high school or university course on the Holocaust and will enrich the background of any adult interested in this subject.

Karen Shawn, Ph.D., Educational Consultant, American Friends of the Ghetto Fighters' Museum


Evelyn Romanowsky Ripp allows us a glimpse of the inner life of a survivor. Her poetic wonderings about God's absence/presence and remembrances and evocations of people and places are the underpinnings of this book and of her life -- to learn to "at once, remember and forget."

Dr. Gloria F. Waldman-Schwartz, Professor, York College and The Cuny Graduate Center

Evelyn Ripp came to the United States from a Displaced Persons Camp in Germany in 1946. After settling in New York City, she eventually graduated from Hunter College in New York, received an M.A. in Russian from New York University and an M.A. in English from Fairleigh Dickinson University in New Jersey. She has taught both Russian and English.

Today, Evelyn's primary avocation is passing on some sense of the reality of her Holocaust experiences to adults and students through speaking engagements and poetry readings. Evelyn has two married daughters and six grandchildren and lives with her husband, Norbert, in northern New Jersey.

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