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18   M i ke Sh a t z k i n

As the Gheto was burning, Friedrich and Edelman were on a rooftop watching the fnal carnage. Friedrich extracted the promise from Edelman that if Edelman survived the war and Friedrich didn’t, Edelman would take guardianship of Elsa.

And, indeed, that came to pass. Elsa had been about 5 years old when she was “adopted” by the Catholic family, and although she recalled the necessity of concealing her story during the war, she was apparently happy in her new home. So when Marek came and took her away from her familiar and comfortable surroundings, honoring the promise he’d made to her father, it was a wrenching experience for a child then only about 9 years old.

The global organization of the Bund knew about Friedrich and knew about Elsa’s circumstances. They considered it anathama that the daughter of a hero could be consigned to such a bleak future, growing up in poverty-stricken, anti-Semitic Poland, even as the control of the hated Soviets (the socialists were very anti-Communist) was being established in the country.

So, using their power as a global organization, the Bund hunted for an American family that would take Elsa in and raise her in this country. My father’s parents, Julek and Helen Shatkin, agreed to accept the responsibility. They were then in their early 50s; my father and his younger brother, Uncle Sock, were both in their 20s, married, and starting their own families. My grandparents moved from New York City, where they had lived in Manhatan and Brooklyn since arriving as immigrants in 1920, to northern Westchester. They built a house and prepared for a new life, raising a daughter in suburban post-World War II America. The political clout of the Bund found sympathetic help from New York Republi-can Senator Irving Ives, who sponsored the special legislation that allowed Elsa to immigrate legally to the United States.

Elsa was a girl of great talent: very beautiful and also brilliant. She was also always troubled, always haunted by the lives (intentionally plural) she had left behind. The spiritual gap between this young woman striving to be a “normal” American and my grandparents, who were culturally still very Old World, created strains. My grand-mother was never particularly comfortable with the arrangement; my grandfather was smiten with his new daughter and wanted to spoil and indulge her. From the perspective of her 10-1/2 years younger nephew (which I was), Aunt Elsa was hip and prety and virtually unapproachable for most of my childhood.

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