Recently I had the honour of listening to, and meeting with, a nonagenarian holocaust survivor. Without doubt, she is one of the strongest people I have encountered. Accomplished, confident and forthright, she explained how it was love, hope and sheer determination that underpinned her survival, despite the deaths of all members of her family, her first love and the the many, many other people accompanying her through the concentration camps of eastern Europe.
So what was it within her biological/psychological make-up that ensured her survival in a situation where so many others perished? She, too was exposed to the physical trauma, illness and starvation that are so synonymous with accounts of this historical ‘legacy’. How did she survive? Her explanation was ‘mind over matter.’ She believes that driven by the determination to survive, she practised acceptance of her situation and learned to adapt.
I discerned that it was also her creativity and quick wit that played a part. Her love of music and performing arts was, quite bizarrely, nurtured within the very walls of her incarceration experience. There is much commentary of how the creative flow uplifts and sustains us, and this woman is a living, breathing, testament to the notion. She lived to make music and co-create with other artists. She had a purpose, a dream, a vision of life. Add in the hope and love that she reports, and you have the principles to sustain an existence, under the most extreme circumstances.
When questioned on current affairs, she demonstrated a laser insight into the state of the world today, particularly in relation to the plight of the vast swathes of people fleeing their home countries to avoid persecution today.
An eerie echo of her personal experiences of life in Europe, some seventy years ago.
However, her testament is not one of condemnation or hate. She believes in forgiveness and appreciation; she lives not to hate, but to love. And perhaps her health and longevity are due to her personal belief systems.
I would love to read more of her philosophies on life and love.