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< Echoes of Memory

Another View of a Survivor

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by Susan Warsinger

The survivors who volunteer at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum were notified about a new project to help younger audiences relate to us and I thought it was a fine idea. We were told that members of the Museum’s marketing team had conceptualized a new video series. They envisioned a casual video conversation with us, focusing on parts of our life beyond the Holocaust, “something you are passionate about—a hobby, a moment in your career, or events or experiences that show a more complete view of who you are as people, as individuals.”

The Survivor Affairs Department sent us an email asking us to list our passions, career choice, hobbies, and life experiences. Here is my list: birding all over the world, bicycle riding, swimming, reading (I’ve belonged to the same book club for more than 60 years), classical music, opera, yoga, exercising, and dancing. I also stated that staying connected with my children and grandchildren at celebrations, weddings, graduations, birthdays, and in person or through phone, emails, texts, and Instagram was very important to me.

The video team and I decided to concentrate on my yoga life as another view of me besides my volunteering at the Museum. The team explained to me that the project was called “Next Chapter” and that the videos would be on the Museum’s social media channels (Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram, including on a Monday for #MondayMotivation). I would be interviewed at my home and then we would continue to film at my yoga class. I was happy with the choice because Jane Chente Wu Adams, my yoga teacher, has her own studio, and I have known her for many years. She knows all the muscles and bones in our body and how they are connected. Jane has a deep understanding of all her students’ physical needs. I was almost positive that she would allow the video crew to invade the studio.

After Jane thought about my request for a few days, she graciously agreed to the plan. She moved some of the yoga equipment into her office and massage room so that there would be enough space for the crew and their assistants. I felt grateful that this expert yoga teacher went to a great deal of effort to make everything perfect for the filming. She stated, “I want this to happen to honor your life.”

Friday, November 30, 2018, was the day of the significant event. The video crew arrived at my home at 8:30 in the morning. My living room and dining room were filled with people and camera equipment. They all knew where to place everything because I had been asked to email pictures of my living room earlier.

Before the interview, I was given an idea of the questions and was told they would ask why yoga is important to me. I made a list of topics to talk about. Here is the list: muscle strength and tone, vitality, balance, energy, feeling loose and flexible, makes my spine nice and straight, good exercise, contributes to a positive outlook on life, increases body awareness, and gives me a connection between my body, mind, and soul. I like the aspect of being with my teacher and the people with whom I practice. It has a permanent place in my health and fitness program, and it enhances my life and makes me happy. How do I connect yoga with my Museum work? Here is my list: walking from the Metro to the Museum even when the weather is freezing cold and the wind is raging; gives me energy to conduct tours of the Permanent Exhibition for two and a half hours without sitting down; maintains my vitality to go on trips to talk about my experiences during the Holocaust to audiences in different parts of the United States and provides my mind and soul fulfillment because I know how important my work is here in the Museum where I help our audiences understand what hatred and prejudice can do to people and that we cannot be onlookers when we see injustice taking place. It makes me happy that I have the opportunity to educate young people and help them understand that we need to be sensitive to each other, realize all that humankind has in common, and that we need to take care of each other.

The interview took about an hour. Everybody helped put my living room back in order before we all drove in separate cars to the yoga class. The camera people set up all their equipment again. Jane was well prepared to teach our poses and I appreciated all the effort she had put forth to make this event successful. I think the class was quietly very excited to be filmed while we were practicing. It lasted for an hour, and I was wondering how many minutes of this time would be used to make the video. The photographer asked me to pose for numerous photos.

One of the pictures was posted on the Museum’s social media on Monday, January 7, 2019. The #MondayMotivation showed that there were 2,060 likes and 33 comments. I also received calls from friends to let me know that they saw it on Instagram. There is a caption under my photo which states that “the 89-year-old survivor volunteer Susan Warsinger travels around the country for the Museum to share her Holocaust experience.” The Instagram also quotes me as saying, “Yoga makes me feel ready to face the world. I think yoga has a very important part in my being able to do all of the activities that I’m involved in at the Museum.”

I am not sure how I feel about everybody knowing how old I am. I feel as I did 30 years ago. I do not feel like I have “one foot in the grave.” I am not going to give in and be old. I recognize that I do not have much of my life ahead of me, but I know that the life I have lived has been a dazzling journey.

© 2019, Susan Warsinger. The text, images, and audio and video clips on this website are available for limited non-commercial, educational, and personal use only, or for fair use as defined in the United States copyright laws.

Tags:   echoes of memory, volume 12susan warsinger

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