Singing of Angels

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Christmas Eve! A half century ago my family escaped from Hungary. I was eight years old at the time. Over the years, I've recalled many details of my early life as a little girl. When I look at my young friend Emma at nearly the same age, I marvel how I could remember so many events - smells, sounds and feelings. I remember the spring fragrance of purple violets in my grandmother's garden. I still recall the crisp snow, crunch-crunching under my feet as I stepped onto the Austrian road from the deep, snow covered fields of Hungary. I remember my elated wonder when I heard angels singing outside my grandfather's house one Christmas Eve, so very long ago.

A lot of my memories are happy ones of love and nurturing by adults who protected me. Many of my memories, however, still rouse tender scars. To my knowledge, no one had ever been deliberately unkind to me; yet, some situations have left me with wounds that will probably never heal.

We all long to be happy at this time of the year. But it isn't that way for everyone. When I consider the thousands of children who are physically and sexually abused - when I consider the thousands of children who witness their mothers being violated, I ask myself, “what kind of memories will these children carry with them and how will they respond to life's circumstances? Who shelters and fosters them? From where are they expected to acquire values?”

Studies indicate that children who have survived war trauma or the refugee experience exhibit similar characteristics to children who have been abused. These include anxiety, fear, secrecy, withdrawal and loneliness. I choose not to write about the pains of my past life. If I am at all resilient, it is because I have made a conscious effort to keep some doors closed. I know what lurks behind those doors. For me they are better left unopened.

What lies ahead for troubled children is impossible to predict. I want to believe that care and encouragement will endow them with cherished memories and ideals which will somehow help to sustain them. Children should take with them treasured experiences about their culture, tradition and family values. They should be able to recall pleasant memories like receiving a surprise gift or sharing a holiday meal in Aunt Marika's formal dining room, intended only for special occasions. And then, when they become adults, they too can look back and smile. No, those weren't carollers singing as Mother had thought, they were angels after all!

Geographic location: Hungary

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