Tag: Learning from history

On this Holocaust Memorial Day : a Holocaust Survivor Remembers the Pet She Left Behind

Holocaust-dog

Bogar

One story in the book Faithful Friends tells about a little mixed-breed, playful dog named Bogar, loved by the Rubin family in Hungary. In 1944 “the unthinkable happened.” Cathy Rubin, a little girl at the time says, “We heard a commotion outside. On a loud-speaker the soldiers told all Jews to line up in the street. We had no place to run or hide. … We only had time to leave Bogar free outside. I prayed to God that he would be safe.”

Here is what happened as told from the dog’s point of view:

Bogar did not understand. He watched his family line up and march with everyone else. He had often gone on walks with his people; perhaps this was a walk of some kind. But he could smell the fear and sense the tension, so he knew it wasn’t a family outing like before.

When his loved ones went into the ghetto, the guards shooed him away. When he would not leave and tried to get inside to be with his family, they threw stones at him that hurt him so badly he yelped. He quickly learned not to linger near the gate. He had been left at home before, but his family had always come back, and it was rare for everyone to be gone at the same time.

So Bogar waited outside the gates of the ghetto for his family to return, being careful to stay far enough away so that no one paid much attention to him. Every now and then a soldier would toss him some scraps to eat. There was a stream nearby where he was able to drink water, and when it rained he had the puddles.

After what seemed like a lifetime, Bogar saw people coming out of the gates in a long line. He ran up and down the line until he found them, his people. Then he jumped and wiggled with joy—now they would all go home!

But they did not go home. They marched again. So, being a loyal dog, Bogar followed them.

Finally they reached the train station and he saw his family climb into a big square train car with lots of other people. There was crying. Occasionally a gun shot made him cringe; the hair rose up on his back and a deep growl rumbled in his throat.

Again, he was forced apart from his family. The soldiers shouted and shoved people. Once in a while a boot would swing in Bogar’s direction. The people getting on the train did not pay attention to him and he had to run a distance away to avoid being trampled. As he hid in some bushes, he whimpered softly, sensing that his people were going far away, leaving him for good.

Once everyone was gone, he slowly wandered around trying to figure out what had happened. He was hungry, thirsty and tired. At first he ran after the train; but he could not catch up to it. Next he went back to the ghetto, hoping that he would find his people and food there, but gone were the few soldiers who had been kind to him. He headed back to his home.

Time passed, and he found it harder to get food. There were no food scraps in the streets or garbage heaps. One time he went up to a man and the man grabbed him and hurt him. He bit the man and got away, but he instinctively knew that the man would have killed him. He became fearful of all people and avoided them, running each time someone saw him or hiding when he detected them first.

Things were not much better when he got back to his home. Some of the neighbors who were still there and knew him would leave a scrap of bone for him or some rotted food. He was not accustomed to eating vegetables but he was so hungry that he ate anything he could find. Once he even chewed the soles of a boot that he found. He went from being a clean dog with a shiny coat to a dirty, matted dog whose ribs stuck out. Even the rats, rabbits and mice became scarce. Once in a while he would catch a bird and would even eat bugs. The days wore on.

Kathy Rubin’s family survived forced labor in Austria. She writes:

On that glorious day in May, 1945, we were free! We were herded up and sent out to fend for ourselves, but we were free. We were alive and all of my family had survived. We started the long walk back to our home. It was the only place we could go.

I’ll never forget walking that final mile. Because we were all so weak, we did not talk. But in our hearts, we wondered if Bogar would be there for us….

… Every day I would walk around our community, hoping to see Bogar, praying that God would bring him home to me and my family. I asked everyone I met if they had seen him, but most people were not sure; they did not remember what he looked like. They were busy trying to survive and did not pay much attention to stray dogs. Many dogs roamed the area. Some people I asked thought Bogar was dead, others thought they saw him run away. This was understandable, since they may have seen him follow us to the ghetto and thought he was gone.

The days passed and I could not find him. I was not strong enough to walk far or I would have walked back to the ghetto and train station to look for him. Slowly my hopes diminished. We were all thankful that we made it through the war and that we were still alive. We were joyful to be reunited with some of our neighbors and friends and to be able to worship at the synagogue again. But we mourned the loss of one family member: Bogar.

We had heard stories of dogs being caught and eaten, or being beaten or shot by soldiers. The bigger dogs would attack the smaller dogs as they starved to death. It wrenched my heart to hear these stories. I kept thinking that Bogar hated the sounds of war and the soldiers so much that he would try to  escape. But how could he find food? I knew that, to survive, people had caught and eaten all the animals they could get. I wondered, What will be left for Bogar? Then I remembered that he was small and he would not need much food to live.

A month later, I was walking down the road about a mile from home, still hoping to find Bogar when I saw a dog that looked like Bogar. I thought my eyes were playing tricks on me. My heart skipped a beat and I held my breath. I hesitated to call his name, for fear it was not him and the disappointment would hurt so much.

Hesitantly, I called, “Bogar! Bogar!”

The dog stopped and looked, frozen in place. Then like a shooting star, he ran to me, jumping and licking my hands and face. It was Bogar—my sweet, wonderful Bogar!

I knelt and hugged him for a long time. What joy and relief. I thanked God for taking care of him. For the first time since we were taken away, I felt peace and hope. God did care.

The two of us hurried home as fast as our weak bodies could, and I burst through the door shouting to the family, “Bogar’s home! Bogar’s home!”
We all hugged and kissed him, then we all hugged each other, tears in everyone’s eyes. Next we gave him some of our precious little food, water and a soft, warm place to sleep. After we got over our excitement, we saw that Bogar had had a rough life while we were gone. He was thin, his coat did not shine, and it seemed that there was a haunted look in his eyes. … For the next year we had our wonderful Bogar with us, then he got sick and died and we all mourned deeply.

Kathy Rubin escaped in 1956 from Hungary. She and her husband made their way to the U.S. where they reared two children and  had many family pets. Kathy now enjoys gardening and helping people.

Read Kathy’s story and the stories of nine other Holocaust survivors in the book (from which this post is excerpted):

FAITHFUL FRIENDS : Holocaust Survivors' Stories of the Pets Who Gave Them Comfort, Suffered Alongside Them, and Waited for Their Return

FAITHFUL FRIENDS : Holocaust Survivors’ Stories of the Pets Who Gave Them Comfort, Suffered Alongside Them, and Waited for Their Return

Learning From Our Failures and Sins, So History Does Not Repeat Itself

Sand-Creek

“History tends to repeat itself.” But some events in history were so evil, shameful, and tragic—that we should pray and work to see that they are never again repeated.

Within the worst of times, however, one can find a few good people who showed faith, hope, and love. Re-telling the stories of those people can offer us a vicarious experience of the past and perspectives needed in the present.

In the mid to late 19th-Century, tensions were building between civilizations, political factions, and people groups competing for land, resources, and power. Westward expansion was thrilling and offered opportunities—land to tame, farms to establish, towns to settle, gold and silver to mine, territory to claim for the United States, a state to organize and add to the Union. But all this encroached on the centuries-old way of life of the Plains Indians. As treaties were made and not honored, more and more military presence moved into the Territory, ambitious opportunists rose to power, fears, misunderstandings, and violence increased.

The story is told in John Buzzard’s historical novel, That Day by the Creek. Set against the backdrop of the Civil War and Frontier struggles, a young seminary graduate answers God’s call to come west and minister among the Cheyenne Indians. His name is Joshua Frasier. He is soon caught up in the action when he is recruited as a chaplain in the Colorado militia led by John Chivington. Through the fictional character of Joshua we meet the major historical figures of the era, including John Evans (first governor of Colorado) Silas Soule, Black Kettle, etc.

Joshua even marries into the Cheyenne tribe and comes to appreciate most of the Cheyennes as “friendly” Indians who just want peace, to be able to trust the White leaders who have made them promises, and to provide for their families by access to their ancient hunting grounds and rivers.

In telling this important story, John Buzzard’s writing style is straight-forward and unsentimental, and the well-paced action keeps you reading as conflicts build to that fateful day.

Sand-Creek-Front-Cov-WebThe true events on which this story is based are heart-wrenching, not an episode of American history to be proud of. John Buzzard deals with the historical people, issues, and events with a clear eye, the informed perspective of a researcher, and the heart of a person of faith who sees individuals as nuanced and flawed, but also sees that even when evil seems to get hold of groups of people and have its day … a faithful few are planting seeds of love, truth, and forgiveness that will survive and bear fruit.

That Day by the Creek brings history to life and reminds us not to allow fear, distrust, and anger to escalate to the place where we would ever again experience such a day as That Day by the Creek!

Everything I Need to Know About Publishing I Learned from my Preacher Father

My father, G.H. Cummings, preaching on the radio as a young man

The preacher and his family. I’m the older sister there.

G.H. Cummings in 2009

My dad and me in a “selfie” shortly before his passing.

Practically being raised on a church pew helped set me on a literary path. We sang with gusto the gospel song, “Publish glad tidings, tidings of peace; tidings of Jesus, redemption and release.” During my growing-up years as my father’s daughter, watching him and my mother minister in many churches, I learned:

The potency and potential of words in a book.

In those days in church we were people of two books: the Bible and the hymnal. Every church service began and ended with opening that wondrous, heavy book, often holding it so the person next to you could share it. The hymnal united us as we joined our voices in lilting melodies and straightforward harmonies accompanied by my mother’s lively piano playing, often eliciting “amens” of blessing. All the symbols to help us make music together resided on the pages of that book, all the words to elicit such response, blended in heart-stirring, mind-engaging, and soul-satisfying rhythm, sense and rhyme.

In every meeting the Bible was also opened—and revered. The congregation stoond for “the reading of the Word.” With a reverent, sonorous, unctuous voice, the preacher read a passage from the Bible, then exhorted from its inexhaustible storehouse of truth, wisdom, and life application. I saw evangelists hold their big, black, leather Bibles aloft in one large hand while exclaiming something like, “The Word of God is alive! It is sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing enough to reveal your sin.” And I quaked. But I also learned, quite young, that real comfort could be experienced from those pages. No mere words on paper. But alive! Jumping off the page and into the mind and heart of the reader or the listener. Quickening!

The joy of writing, printing, and disseminating words on paper.

I watched my preacher father as he typed the church bulletin—and perhaps a newsletter—during the week on his old black typewriter (I loved the clicking of the keys and the how the little hammers hit the paper, resulting in words appearing and forming themselves into sentences that said something and that people would read and use to plan their week). On Saturday Daddy would crank out maybe two-hundred copies with his mimeograph machine. I can still smell the ink and hear the sheets of paper swoosh round the rollers and shoot out onto the pile of materials ready to be folded and stacked, then handed out and read—to inform and influence—to be published!

The importance of getting the word out.

Twice a year our churches held extended revival services with an itinerant evangelist, and, in preparation, Daddy would mimeograph a flyer about the upcoming week of meetings. I remember a few times when he paid my sister and me 5¢ each per city block to take the flyers door-to-door and invite people to the services (though “city block” doesn’t quite describe neighborhoods in these rural towns surrounded by farms). My sister and I learned the importance of overcoming our trepidation, knocking on doors, and getting out the word (much like the publicity side of book publishing).

The value of reading and sharing books.

We had few toys and TV (which we got when I was about 11) was our only “tech” entertainment. But always there were books. Books lined the shelves in my father’s study. He took my sister and me to the public library regularly, encouraging us to browse and check out books that interested us. My sister read every horse book she could find, especially those by Walter Farley. I read all the Louisa May Alcott books. And when we brought books home from school or library, our mother often read them, too, and we all enjoyed discussing together the stories. In fact, my sister and I always told each other the stories we read. As a result, I felt I’d read the Black Stallion books even though I never did. And she knew the characters and plots in Little Women and Under the Lilacs even though she didn’t read them. She didn’t have to. That ability to vicariously experience the stories really helped, because there were so many more books to discover! (A side note: When I was a girl I’d hear people argue their point in conversation by saying, “I know it’s true. I read it in a book!” Whether people were readers or not, I observed that most had a sort of reverential awe of books.)

The importance of knowing your readers, your audience, your market.

My father made it a practice to call on his flock in their homes regularly and also to be there whenever trouble hit a family. He would stop by their businesses, farms, and work places for a friendly chat. When he stood in the pulpit to preach on Sunday, he knew those people. He knew their families, their joys and sorrows, the challenges they faced. He also knew their interests, their hobbies, what made them laugh or cry.

How to recruit, train, and encourage workers.

The work and mission of the church needed people of all abilities and ages (and still does). I saw discernment in operation, encouragement expressed, and responsibilities entrusted. Organizing, scheduling, holding meetings were necessary. But loving God and loving people mattered most. Whether or not I heard that expressed in so many words, I definitely “caught” the mindset. As a publisher I want to see sales and increase distribution. I want well-edited and designed books, I want engaged authors, reliable print providers, and enthusiastic book reviewers. I want customers to buy our books. But most of all I want to experience God’s presence in all we do. I want to always remember that, as a Christian publisher, what we publish truly is “glad tidings.”

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