Sweden is known around the world for being democratic, safe, and clean, with beautiful nature and rich wildlife. In our travels around the country, we have seen deep forests and mountainous terrain, as well as farmland and white sandy beaches. The beauty of our surroundings, however, pales in comparison to the beauty of the souls we have had the privilege of meeting.
Mrs. Weltman lives in the city of Boras where there is a small Jewish community. Nevertheless, we were somewhat taken aback when she welcomed us warmly in fluent Yiddish. We sat down and Mrs. Weltman, whose youthful personality belies her age, shared some old Yiddish jokes with us.
Feeling quite at home, we heard our our host describe what brought her to Sweden. Mrs. Weltman turned somber and told us she had been born in Lodz, Poland, and lived an idyllic life for the first few years, surrounded by her loving, close-knit family. When the Nazis invaded Lodz in 1939, life as she knew it came to an end. She suffered unspeakable horrors in the ensuing years, but survived, along with a small handful of relatives. After the war, they faced the monumental task of carving a new life for themselves. She ended up in Sweden, and has lived there quietly for more than sixty years. The only family she has now is her son and daughter. Thankfully, they both call Sweden home.
"I am so happy to see you," she exclaimed, in Yiddish. "You remind me of my childhood, of my father, my brothers."
Mrs. Weltman phoned her son, who lives nearby, urging him to come and meet us. A dutiful son, he came immediately. We introduced ourselves to him, and explained the purpose of our travels. Of course, we asked him if he would like to put on tefillin.
"I haven't put on tefillin since my Bar Mitzvah many years ago," he said. "But since you came especially to visit us, I will put on tefillin today."
We helped him do the mitzvah, an experience which visibly moved him. He closed his eyes, and prayed for himself and his family.
We stayed a while longer, teaching some Torah concepts to our captive audience.
As we headed to our next appointment, we felt newly invigorated by our encounter with this unassuming heroine.