Longing Overcomes Us: The Finkelsztejn Family’s Correspondence, New York–Warsaw, 1939–1941
Edited by Ewa Koźmińska-Frejlak
It is simply that longing overcomes us like a severe illness, and during holidays or on some special days for the family, when memories of happy moments spent together come rushing back, our longing vexes us even more, memories come rushing back to the mind, imagination paints images of particularly special moments, and all this combined is so irritating, exciting and unnerving that one cannot adapt oneself to it. When Chaim Finkelsztejn left his wife and two daughters on August 23, 1939, to travel to the Zionist Congress in Geneva, he expected to return to his hometown of Warsaw within a few days. He never did. One week after his departure, the armies of Nazi Germany and of the Soviet Union invaded Poland. His return had become impossible. Exiled and separate from his wife and daughters, Chaim Finkelsztejn tried to organize aid to the Jewish communities in Nazi-occupied Poland; first from Paris and—after he received a visa—from the United States. His efforts were overshadowed by the worry for his own family’s safety. Finkelsztejn attempted to secure visas that would enable them to leave Poland, first to Mandatory Palestine and later to the U.S. He nearly succeeded, but then the United States entered the war, and both the visa option and the ability to communicate with his wife and daughters were taken from him. From the moment they were separated, the Finkelsztejns tried to stay in contact via letters that became a bridge over the ever-widening gulf of the divergent environments in which they found themselves. Filled with affection, longing, memories, and worries for the future, the letters presented in Longing Overcomes Us poignantly reveal the increasing isolation, suffering, and despair of Jews under Nazi rule, and offer a glimpse into the souls of those who were torn from their loved ones.