It is a privilege to be friends with a woman as remarkable as Paula. There’s no way for me to do her experiences justice in a few words, but I will say that Paula was 6 years old when World War II started and by the end, she had lost her father, two sisters, and experienced unspeakable horrors in Auschwitz-Birkenau (her full testimony is recorded and available through the Shoah foundation) and she was only 12 years old at the time of her liberation.
Paula exemplifies love and vitality- that is- the capacity for survival or for the continuation of a meaningful or purposeful existence. If I were writing a dictionary, there would be a little picture of her face next to that definition.
I am trying to make good on my promise to her that I will never forget what she endured, and that I will not be silent. If we forget the past, then we risk history repeating itself, which is completely unacceptable. I urge everyone- my friends, family, and acquaintances- to take note, and remember that these unspeakable horrors actually happened and are entirely capable of happening again if we forget the love and respect we owe to each other as human beings.
Be aware of what is happening in the world today. There are many places where genocide is committed and the most basic human rights are being atrociously violated. Count yourself lucky not to be there. We may be powerless to directly affect a war-torn nation across the globe, but we influence our immediate environments whether or not we are conscious of it. Chose to be conscious, because everybody changes the world; whether we change it for better or worse is our decision.
Celebrate life and practice tolerance. Paula exemplifies these principles: she is my example, my idol, my friend, and I hope that I will become half the woman she is.