"Will You Be My Sister?"
After several weeks in a transient camp in Germany, Miriam and I parted ways. She hugged me tightly and cried and thanked me for taking care of her. She returned to our hometown, while Vera and I traveled to Budapest, where we had an uncle, finally ending up back in Kassa; the city had been annexed by Czechoslovakia and renamed Kosice. Miriam was no longer there. Vera went to live in a boarding school in Bratislava, and I stayed in Kosice for a few years, working as a cashier in a stationery store, hoping against hope that my father would return. He never did.
One day, while visiting family in Nitra, I was reunited with a distant relative named Eli Braun, whose family had survived the war by assuming Christian identities. Eli and I became engaged. He had relatives in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, where Vera had landed two years earlier. In January 1950, Eli and I arrived in Williamsburg. A few days later, I was leaving my apartment building when I saw a young woman walking down the street. She was heavier than I remembered and wore a blonde sheitel, or wig, but there was no doubt: It was Miriam. We ran to each other, tears of joy streaking our faces, and embraced. She told me she was married to another survivor, Sam Brach, who had lost his parents and nine siblings in the Holocaust, and they had a daughter.
"Where do you live?" I asked.
"Right here!" Miriam said, and pointed across the street.
There is a saying from the Talmud, "...anyone who preserves a single life is as though he preserves the whole of mankind." Miriam acknowledged that by saving her, I had saved the children she would someday have. We lived across the street from each other for two years, and our families spent Sundays together; her daughters would sprawl on my floor, watching Lassie with my son. They often asked us about the war, but we didn't like to talk about it. We tried so hard not to remember. Today Vera is in poor health, and Miriam, a widow, lives near me. Neither of us likes to speak of those dark ages, but I feel it is my mission to talk about that time. I tell my story to high school children in New York City and to visitors at Yad Vashem, the Holocaust History Museum in Jerusalem, where I have volunteered as a guide. My rabbi says that nothing is coincidence; everything is preordained. So I must have been meant to cross paths with Miriam, not just once, but twice; to survive where six million died; to live to bear witness, while I still can.
— As told to Dana White
A version of this story can be found in Small Miracles of the Holocaust: Extraordinary Coincidences of Faith, Hope, and Survival (Lyons).