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Her Own Child

Her Own Child

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Editor’s note: Some of the names of the characters in this true-life story have been changed to protect their privacy.

Even before war clouds thickened over Eastern Europe in the pre-Nazi years, it became common for Jews in the besieged countries—tired of pogroms, poverty and despair—to send children to the United States, where opportunities for a better life beckoned.

From the early 1900s on, parents scrimped their rubles to pay for the long and arduous voyage of their sons and daughters, who traveled alone aboard unseaworthy vessels that offered inhuman conditions and an uncertain fate. Since tickets for each treacherous journey cost a small fortune and exacted a heavy toll on the destitute families, parents often chose to ship their children to America one by one rather than sending them all at once. But it was always their hope and dream that all the children would eventually reach the American haven, where they would be joined later by their parents. In the interim, they would stay with relatives who would care for them and help them wait, sometimes for months or years. And sometimes the longed-for reunions never took place at all.

Anya Gold was the chosen one in her family. She was the eldest of eight, and in 1930 her Polish parents told her it was time to go. They had saved just enough money for one ticket, and had decided that Anya would be the first child to leave. They would all soon join her, they said.

Growing up in Baltimore under the sheltering wing of an affectionate aunt, Anya waited for her family to arrive. But they never did.

It took years for the family to accumulate enough money for another fare, and by then they had been caught in Hitler’s web. In Baltimore, over the years, Anya had received the occasional letter from Poland recounting family news and milestones—her siblings’ bar mitzvahs, their marriages, the births of grandchildren. She awaited these letters eagerly and savored each one. And then the letters came no more.

Anya feared the worst, but it was only after the war that she was able to conclusively determine her family’s fate. A few stray survivors from her hometown in Poland who trickled into Baltimore in the late 1940s brought the news she had both known and dreaded to hear: Her entire family had been wiped out. They had all perished in the camps.

It was hard to go on afterwards, but even the survivors began to rebuild their lives. Her family’s memory burned in her mind, heart and soul, but Anya knew that the best way for her to commemorate their legacy was by creating one herself. She would marry and have many children, she vowed. And each would carry one of her siblings’ names.

Anya did indeed marry a wonderful man named Sol, and their life together was almost idyllic. They were truly soulmates, and their love ran deep. They longed for children—flesh of their flesh, blood of their blood—but in this one area they were thwarted. It was the only thorn in their otherwise perfect union. They were childless.

After many years of trying, of seeking help from specialists the world over, Anya and Sol confronted the reality of their situation. “Would you want to adopt?” Anya asked Sol one day in a tentative voice.

Anya had considered this option for a long time, but inwardly she had rebelled. She didn’t want to raise someone else’s children. She wanted to cradle her own newborn in her arms. She couldn’t imagine that she would feel the same way about an adopted child. Still, there seemed no other recourse. They were never going to have children of their own, the doctors had pronounced—a death knell to their hopes and dreams.

Her husband was more certain. “Yes, let’s adopt,” he urged.

They contacted a Jewish agency in New York, and were told that an infant had just been given up for adoption by its teenage mother. They traveled to New York with growing excitement, but when they arrived, their hopes were dashed. The flustered agency official stammered an apology. “I’m so sorry,” she said, “but the grandmother has decided to raise the baby after all.”

Had their trip to New York been a total waste? “You know,” the agency official remarked, “I do have a wonderful little girl named Miriam who is in desperate need of a home.”

Miriam was adorable and endearing, but she was already eight years old. Although Anya and Sol reluctantly agreed to meet the child, and were captivated by her sweet appeal, they couldn’t quite come to terms with her age. “I really wanted a child young enough to know me as its only mother,” Anya explained. “I want a newborn to cradle in my arms.”

“I understand,” the agency official said. “But Miriam has really been through a lot in her short lifetime, and could really use a loving home.”

“Sorry, but no,” Anya said, with regret.

A year passed with no prospects. Anya had contacted many agencies across the United States, but an infant was increasingly difficult to find. All the while, Anya’s intense longing for a child consumed her being—a hungry and hollow ache.

“You know,” she mused to her husband one day, “maybe we were too quick to dismiss adopting Miriam. She was really an exceptionally appealing child. Something about her actually tugged at my heartstrings in a special way.”

Sol looked at her thoughtfully. “It’s been a full year,” he said. “Do you think she’s still available?”

She was, the agency official told them over the phone. “Not too many people want a nine-year-old,” she explained mournfully, “So, yes, she’s still available . . .

“But there’s a complication,” she added. “Her little brother has been found in Europe and has joined her in our home for war orphans. The siblings are inseparable, and we’ve promised them that they’ll be adopted together. Would you consider two?”

Back in New York, Anya and Sol met the siblings, and once again Anya felt drawn to Miriam’s sweet demeanor. Her six-year-old brother Moishe was adorable, too.

Anya and Sol looked at each other silently, telegraphing their mental agreement. Let’s do it! their eyes said.

Back in Baltimore, Anya shepherded the two children across the threshold into their new home, and they glanced at the furnishings with eyes of wonder. Little Moishe was shy and restrained, but Miriam was adventurous and curious, and she moved around the living room excitedly, touching the knickknacks and curios that adorned the mantels and tables. Suddenly, she stopped short in front of the piano, and her face went white. She pointed to a photograph. In a tight and strained voice, Miriam asked, “Why do you have a picture of my bubbe (grandmother) on your piano?”

“What?” Anya asked, confused.

“My bubbe. Why is my bubbe’s picture on your piano?”

Anya stared at the portrait of her deceased mother. What in heaven’s name was the little girl talking about?

Miriam ran to the lone piece of luggage she had brought with her from the orphanage. From a battered pouch, she retrieved a faded photo and brought it to Anya’s side. “See,” she said, pointing. “I have the same picture, too. My bubbe.”

“My mother,” Anya whispered almost inaudibly.

“Do you want to see a picture of my mommy?” Miriam asked. She raced to the luggage to retrieve another photograph. “Do you want to see what she looked like?” She handed Anya a picture of someone she knew very well.

Sarah!” Anya screamed, as her knees buckled beneath her.

“How do you know my mother’s name?” the child asked in confusion.

Unknowingly, Anya had adopted the two orphaned children of her dead sister Sarah.

They were flesh of her flesh, blood of her blood. They were . . . her own.

From Small Miracles for the Jewish Heart by Yitta Halberstam and Judith Levental
© Copyright, all rights reserved. If you enjoyed this article, we encourage you to distribute it further, provided that you comply with Chabad.org's copyright policy.
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Shoshana August 14, 2017

Truely unbelievably, beautiful story. If they would have had their own children, they might never have considered adoption, and these children, her real family, might never have found an adoptive family because of their age. Amazing, awesome divine providence, thank you so much for posting this. Reply

Uzi June 9, 2017

I can't wait for the movie. Reply

GLENDA COMPTON WOODENBONG November 26, 2016

God is good. Amazing God is so good. Reply

Galit Brisbane January 26, 2016

Amazing reunion What a wonderful story. If possible, all children lost in strange circumstance need to be reunited with their real families it at all possible. Reply

CIndy Swimley Corning, NY January 13, 2014

This is wonderful I always wanted to adopt Children, But never had the money to adopt them..This was a wonderful story!! Reply

Anonymous December 21, 2013

Miracles This story could be nothing far from the truth. God does give families miracles. My story does not have the same devastating twists as this, but I also was adopted by my birth mother's sister and her husband at the age of 9. I understand why this family would want a newborn. Because of their strive to get a newborn, they did not settle for any one child. God knew they had to come to this discussion on their own. God bless them and may their families strive! Reply

Rabbi Shmary Brownstein Chabad.org December 15, 2013

G-d and Satan In Judaism it is taught that Satan has no power of his own, and is only to operate as G-d allows him. Thus both good and evil come from one and only G-d. The corollary of this is that therefore even in evil there is a hidden good which will one day become apparent. Reply

Vickie Yucaipa, CA November 25, 2013

Truly heart melting! I have read the three available stories here in this site and I would love to read more of these miracle stories. 'Stars shine brightest in a pitch black sky' and the backdrop of the indignities, inhumane treatment, and horrors the Jewish community suffered make these miracles shine all the brighter. True stories of miracles (God's love) and courage (faith in God to increase our ability to accomplish all things through His strength) are always so much better than any other form of media or story. Thank you so much for sharing these! Reply

Anonymous Illinois November 25, 2013

Who are the children in the picture? It was taken much earlier than ca. 1930. Reply

Diana Kavanagh Australia November 25, 2013

Give God the Glory that He is due!! It doesn't matter what names are used, the fact is that if they had been able to have children of their own, they wouldn't have looked to adopt, and the two little children of Anya's sister, wouldn't have been found and saved by them.
God DOES work in very mysterious ways, and we should all give HIM the GLORY which He deserves and is due.
If we do a good job at something, and someone else takes the credit for it, I'm sure that we would get very annoyed, and I'm sure that God does too, when people give the credit for His good works, to something else - like Nature or the Universe. Reply

Nancy Norton Spartanburg, SC November 24, 2013

Quite a beautiful story This was a very touching story that very well may have been true. Even if it wasn't it was a beautiful story just the same!! Reply

Anonymous TX, USA November 24, 2013

Wow, that was an amazing story. It made me cry. Reply

Anonymous oregon November 24, 2013

People do not want to use their real names for obvious reasons, the press for one. I believe this is a real story. I do not believe that Chabad would print it if it was not. Reply

Anonymous November 24, 2013

I believe that things like this did happen frequently after Hitler was finally killed. So many families were separated. I do think that Anya's shock and happiness at finding out her children were also her niece and nephew was due more to the fact that she had at last found some more information about her lost family , than to the fact that the children were blood related. Remember she adopted the children, decided they were hers, with no idea that they were her sister's children. Reply

Anonymous Chino November 24, 2013

love God works in mysterious ways His wonders to perform Reply

Anonymous New Jersey November 24, 2013

Coincidence or not.... While I respect all opinions, I must say that to classify this as negative and "uneducated" is a bit inappropriate. It is a beautiful story none the less. The dialog is accurate as it is the reality of prospective adoptive parents.(Not all, but it is reality) I am an adoptee as well and actually thought this story was quite touching. Even as an adoptee you long for "something/someone of your own" so I can totally understand why an adoptive parent would feel the same. Strange things do happen to bring separated families together- it's the energy of people and the force of nature. The manner in which my family came back together was extraordinary, and had I not experienced it myself and the crazy force/"coincidences" that brought my family back together, I would think this story was a bit far-fetched, but who am I to judge? It could be in the end or it could be 100% truth, but either ways, the message was sweet. Reply

Patricia Dennis Clayton November 24, 2013

Just proves that God works in mysterious ways. This is a loving, heartwarming story. Does it really matter if it is true or not?? Reply

Cheryle Kelowna BC November 24, 2013

Who cares if it was true or not! It is a wonderful story. Relax people and just enjoy imagining the beauty of this story. It could just possibly be! :) Reply

DB NJ November 24, 2013

Amazing! But still I believe in coincidences. Reply

Just another reader Canada November 24, 2013

How does this amazing story of luck turn into a religious or contextual debate?
Just enjoy it for what it is; a good story! Reply

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