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  • Last summer, during a lunch, I asked my father-in-law how did they know that it was time to leave? I had heard that he and his Father had left their town, in the Carpathian Mountains, and made their way to Paris, and then to New York just six months before World War Two broke out.
    What would cause a family to leave behind property, possessions and memories?
    “Oh, we knew it was time to go,” his answer was certain.
    His Uncle drove the horse cart, while he, a boy of eight years, watched from the back of the cart and saw the towns burning behind them. Fighting had broken out and his Uncle wanted to get back and join in.
    “Did he go back?” I asked.
    His Uncle did go back, was captured, sent to a work camp, escaped, was captured again and was on a train to Buchenwald when they were liberated by the Russians. The train was on a line that was bombed, and another train ahead derailed, carrying cattle and chocolate. The liberated prisoners helped themselves to the spoils, they roasted meat and ate the chocolate.

    Our lunch continued and the conversation moved on to the banalities of daily life. The view into the past closed up again.

    The boy child, who sat in the back of the cart watching history change, grew up, raised three sons, led an ordinary life and died two weeks ago at the age of 84.
    We mourn once for a life passing, and again for a civilization that had ended many years before.
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