A New Horizon
A New Horizon
By Ryan Miller
Fairfield Center School, Grade 8
For my grandmother, Ruth Gellis, a Holocaust survivor
The voyage took seventeen days, and the seas were often rough. The cabins were small, with two sets of bunk beds. She slept on top, while her mother rested below. Even the boat’s steady rocking could not comfort the overwhelming emotions she was flooded with. Sadness and anxiety, as well as excitement and uncertainty -- her life was much like the boat itself. A boat taken off course, but once through the rough waters lay the possibility of a friendlier life.
As a child of ten, the absence of her father initially went unnoticed. It was 1936, and months earlier plans had been made to leave their home and relatives in the German city of Essen, leaving their familiar world and preparing to embark to an entirely new one. They left from the neutral country of Holland, leaving behind the Jewish community and their heritage on the continent that was increasingly succumbing to Nazi persecution. They boarded the ship, the "Warwick Castle," and prepared to begin a new life.
Her first sight of the country she would soon call home was the massive, Table Mountain. This landmark stood out with its enormous flat top, and was a symbolic gateway into South Africa. The enormous scale of the geologic formation increased as the boat made its way into the harbor of Cape Town.
Seeing the dense crowd of people off the side of the boat, she knew that her father would be somewhere among those hundreds of people. She and her mother collected their luggage and slowly progressed to the exit point and down the gangplank. After a short while, she saw her father. Both of them hurriedly pushed through to where he was standing. Overwhelmed with joy and happiness after six months apart, she studied him, taking comfort in the familiar gentle curves and lines of his face. Although they were in a completely foreign world, away from their homeland and families, they had not been harmed, and they were together, and that was what mattered most.
Reflecting on this part of her life she says that after surviving under difficult conditions in foreign countries, “it was important for me to learn to forgive, but not to forget as well as to focus living each day for the moment and to its fullest.”