I have been elated and humbled by the correspondence I have received from readers of PRAGUE around the globe. This week, a note arrived from Michael Botermans, a dedicated teacher in Canada’s Northern Territories. I would like to share it with you:
Greetings from Canada’s Arctic! I’ve wanted to send this note to you last week, and so I apologize for the delay. I have finally read Prague: My Long Journey Home from cover to cover and have enjoyed it thoroughly, to say the least. Every day after school and soccer practice, I’d rush home and sit on the back veranda with your book in hand, enjoying a short-lived arctic spring and bright sunshine. Your book, your story, your family, is incredible, and I thank you so much for sharing it with me, for documenting it so that others can learn and grow from your life experience, in all its tragedy and in all its triumph. I believe your story, like so many in lfe and in literature, has a happy ending. Thanks so much, too, for signing my book; that means a lot to me.
As a teacher in the Northwest Territories (Canada’s western arctic) for over twenty years, I have made it my personal quest to teach and re-teach the story of the Holocaust to my students. I have a few friends who are Holocaust survivors and Second Generation of the Holocaust. Last March, I had one survivor by the name of Ben Lesser (whose autobiography Living Life That Matters: From Nazi Nightmare to American Dream about his experience in Auschwitz, Dachau and Buchenwald concentration camps, Durnhau labor camp, Death March, hiding, resistance, starvation, torture and liberation) come to the arctic for one week to make presentations on the Holocaust (around his story line) to our young people in three northern communities. It was both heart-warming and heart-wrenching for all of us, but what education and what an inspiration! I have Ben Lesser and a female survivor, either Renee Firestone or Ben’s sister, Lola Lieber (who has also written an autobiography) returning in March 2013.
Charles, I can’t thank you enough and sing my praises of your accomplishments, both in writing Prague and in raising a beautiful family and the success in your career. I am very inspired, heart-warmed and appreciative of your life story, and I really benefitted from reading and reflecting on your book. I would like to say, as a practicing Roman Catholic, how truly sorry I am for any way the Church contributed to your suffering and loss. As much as I love my Church, I also know we have our weaknesses, limitations and history, and so there is always the need to improve and to be more sensitive, tolerant, understanding, helpful, and loving. Words can be so dangerous, but silence and indifference even more so, and in saying that I wish you all the peace and joy of this life and all the blessings you and your family deserve. Thank you so much, Charles, for allowing me to read a part of your life and to be a better person because of it. Prague: My Long Journey Home is a triumph!
Thank you, Michael — not only for your kind words, but for your dedication to teaching children in the far-off Canadian Arctic and for keeping alive the story of the Holocaust.