Hanna Koziel, cousin of my father, she died from typhus in concentration camp, few days before liberation. Fellow in a middle survied the war. Accidently, I met him in Florida. Lady on right survied. Perchaps, someone knew the girl on right, she lived in Cleveland Ohio See comment.
A few years ago my daughter and I went on a vacation to Florida. We decided to go to a concert after having spent the day on the beach. As we were standing in line to get in, we were talking in Russian.
A gentleman behind us in line heard our conversation and picked up the Russian language.
He approached us and asked,
“Which city are you from?”
“Vitebsk” my daughter answered.” Actually I am from a very small town, Oshmana, near Vilna,”
I added,” You have probably never heard of us.”
“Oshmana!” the gentleman exclaimed. “Do you know a lady by the name Hanka Koziel ?”
I tried to recall this name in my mind but nothing came to me.
“I was born after the war. So I don’t know too many people from that generation. I could probably ask my mother. Tell me more.”
“I am looking for a girl. She was a pretty girl. I went out with her a few times just before the war.”
“Are you from Oshmana?” I asked him.
“No” he replied,” I am from Vilna. How I survived the war is a long story but I ended up in Cuba.
I still don’t know what happened to this girl. After the war, I tried to locate her but had no luck.”
Finally we got inside and the crowd separated us.
His story wouldn’t leave my mind. I asked my mother about this family. She couldn’t tell me much.
I called my Aunt Liza in Cleveland.
“ Koziel? She was my cousin. She was in Shtutthof, a German concentration camp,” my aunt informed me.
“Is she alive?” I inquired.
“At the end of the war my mother, your grandmother Hava, and this beautiful twenty two years old cousin of mine, came down with typhoid. They did not survive. A few days later in February of 1945 we were liberated. My cousin in her last days had been mentioning someone from Vilna.”
There was a purpose to this encounter with the stranger far away from home.
It started yet another journey back in time. A closure to a love story, so abruptly torn by inhumane, senseless cruelty, will come to be when these lines reach him-the stranger far away from home.