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Wednesday , 30 September 2020

MOULY: Reflecting on a poignant documentary and a special friend

I recently watched #AnneFrank – Parallel Stories.

The Netflix documentary follows Oscar winner Helen Mirren as she reads excerpts from Frank’s diary.

The show also recaps events of additional holocaust survivors.

It’s been many years since I read the world renowned book, but watching the show was a bitter sweet reminder. The perspectives that were included made it seem that people from all over the world of all different ages would be able to find a way to connect.

Born to a Jewish family in Frankfurt, Germany in 1929, Frank spent much of her life in the Netherlands.

There, they went into hiding in 1942 where they remained until 1944.

She was then sent with her sister to Auschwitz, and later to Bergen-Belsen concentration camp where she died of typhoid in February of 1945.

Her father survived and later published the book, which has helped people around the world connect to her story and discover the harsh realities of what people are capable of.

Anne Frank in 1940, captured by an unknown photographer in Stichting, Amsterdam.

Other survivors in the documentary remembered the heaps of corpses in the camps, and went on to teach their grandchildren not to take things for granted. All held on to little things they could be optimistic about such as writing, drawing, or music.

Even though she had seen so much hardship with people being carted off to their deaths, the documentary references the diary saying that in the last year of her life she still believed in the goodness of people.

Some of the speakers say that modern situations don’t compare but that discrimination occurs, and that refugees are still fleeing their situations. Others look at current times and are concerned about a potential rise in racism. They say social media can act as a community where people are able to share with fellow haters. One said that the genocide was done by humans ‘like us’.

How often do we try to disconnect from the negative? Most wouldn’t want to admit that they have ever inhibited children from flourishing.

If we’re being honest, many of us have shushed children for asking too many questions, or asked them to go play in their room or outside so they don’t interrupt.

Although such measures in no way equate to genocide, and can even inspire creative and imaginative play, feelings of resentment or neglect can be harboured.

Even in general to other citizens, we are not all nice, not all the time.

Be cautious of how you impact others. Even if your intentions are good, sometimes your actions leave a different lasting impression.

A special lady and fellow holocaust survivor, the late Heidi Van Tol, left a vividly positive impression on me.

As a toddler, her family was trying to escape war torn Germany. I remember being told that she was laying in the bottom of a carriage with the horse urinating on her as it pressed forward, unable to stop until they reached the border.

They remained in Europe for another 10 years before immigrating to Canada.

A great friend of my family’s, she never dwelt on unfair circumstances. She was constantly found lifting people’s spirits and genuinely acted as a ray of sunshine in their lives. What she absorbed she immediately reflected out toward others sharing in coffee, life lessons, and delicious cream horns.

One day over a board game, she became very serious making me promise to never, ever let my daughter give up.

Knowing her past circumstance it was difficult to keep my composure, and it still takes my breath away, that she would care so deeply about others. I only had the pleasure of meeting her a handful of times, but I will never forget her glorious disposition.

About Angela Mouly

Angela comes to Lakeland Connect Media from the Vermilion Voice newspaper where she spent the past four years reporting on community events. Her repertoire includes writing about history, politics, agriculture, sports, entertainment and art. She was the third place recipient of an AWNA General Excellence Award for “Best Front Page” during their 2016 Better Newspaper Competition. Angela has lived in rural Alberta all her life and in Vermilion for the past 15 years. She looks forward to continuing to serve and inform the Lakeland community by joining in people's many adventures and sharing their stories.