“To this day, the last laugh of our dear, sweet children echoes in my ears …”
This is a heart-breaking account by Helen Kajman of events that culminated in a prison cell in Bialystock in 1943, aptly titled “The Last Laugh of the Children of Ostrolenka” from the Yizkor book of that town in Poland. It is a story of children who suffered but also found moments for games, and singing and telling stories. It is also the story of anguished parents who knew they could do little for their children, particularly the hungry and sick.
“Szlomit, my child, do you blame me?,” Kajman tells one of her two children. “I won't be able to help you, I won't be able to save you.”
One night her daughter sings a song for the prisoners: “Everyone listened intently. From the depths of her little heart, her thin voice, expressing longing and love, shattered the darkness and the heavy atmosphere in our cell. When she finished, she said to me, “I sang to my father. Every evening, we will hug each other like this and sing, just like I did today. Right, Mother?”
On a Thursday in December 1943, the children were cruelly taken away. Forty-four children, of 312 Jews.
Silver Spring MD
Researching: DRACH, EBERT, KIMMEL, ZLOTNICK
Towns: Wojnilow, Kovel