top of page
  • Writer's pictureLeann Shamash

A Letter to You, Dad

Updated: Jul 6, 2020

Dear Dad,

Today would have been your 95th birthday. July 6, 1925 is not your real birthday, of course. You had the opportunity to choose your own birthday when you arrived in this country after the end of World War II. How fitting, to be able to choose your own date of birth during a time of your own re-birth. Dad was born in Poland. For the first sixteen years of your life things were OK, but after the Nazis occupied your town, your mother, sisters, nephew and then finally your father were killed. You, your brother and his wife and her sisters escaped to the forests where you were part of a larger partisan group. During the time in the forests, your character was formed. Through guile, survival skills and God's help, you, your brothers and the three sisters survived the war. Your re-birth was decidedly not forged through fire, rather it was re-created through cold, hunger, fear and deprivation. Emerging on the other side of the forests, death, Anti-Semitism, Nazism and the cruel death of millions, you and others like you were scarred for life by trauma, but you also knew how to survive. You were eager to live and create something new; to be significant in this world. You wanted to taste life and toast it at every occasion.

You made it to the United States and soon ended up serving your new country in Korea where you served as a carpenter. Your father was a carpenter also and you learned his skills which probably saved your life. I wonder sometimes if your father or mother, from whom so many of us are named, were also artistically inclined, because in addition to being a carpenter, you were also such an artist. We didn't celebrate your talent while you were alive and we should have. I'm often sad now that I never asked these questions when you were here on earth and now it is too late to ask, so I fabricate dreams instead.

We never spoke much about freedom. You loved to argue, and although your sparring partners varied widely, I wasn't one of them. Mostly you argued with mom's dad, our Papa Abrasha, about the value of capitalism. You wanted to be a capitalist success story and Papa Abrasha wanted to follow what he defined as the pure doctrine of the Communist party. You were a match made in heaven. When I occasionally go to your grave to visit and see Papa's grave nearby, I imagine the shouting matches about Karl Marx versus shiny white Cadillacs echoing in the courts of the angels. I can almost hear the shouting in the heavens above.

I diverge from my topic, dad. You were one of the millions of refugees who have made this country great through contributions to small businesses, the armed forces and a myriad of inventions. So many immigrants over the years have given their service, creativity, hard work and dedication toward the ideal that everyone who works hard has a chance to live the American dream. You were one of those millions. You loved this country, what it stands for and all it affords to its varied citizenry. You never missed an opportunity to vote in an election and you timed your visits to Florida to coincide with voting times. You were never an activist, but as so many refugees who call this country home, the concept of freedom branded on your heart. You walked the walk of freedom, you danced in its light and the opportunities it affords.

Over the past few years, Barry, Paul and I have said so many times that we couldn't imagine how you would view the United States as it is now. Although I would love to say that I can't imagine how you would view the current president, I know that you would be appalled down to your core. You would cringe and swear at every slander, every attack on immigrants, on women, on dreamers, on respected politicians, on scholars and scientists and the press as affronts to democracy and the very fabric of our country. I know that you would be screaming at the television when you would hear the self aggrandizing and divisive language of this president. I feel it in my core. I can hear your horror and the x-rated exchanges with the president as he speaks when you realized that the country that opened its arms to you, has changed so much in such a short time.

I miss you dad. I miss the energy and creativity that you brought into this world. I am glad that you chose July 6th as your birthday. I am not sure of your reasons, but on this, what would have been your 95th birthday, I can imagine that it is because you wanted to associate your birthday with freedom and with the opportunities that freedom brings. Because you don't want to be remembered just as a Holocaust survivor, but as a survivor who wanted to be associated with the principals from which this country was built. You wanted your rebirth to be close to the ideals of liberty, of openness, of freedom of expression, and the rights to work and to build. Your birthday, so close to the fourth of July, will always spark memories of you and those like you, who contributed so much to the world we live in. You were indeed a part of a great generation.

I'll end this letter to you, dad, by saying that I hope that this generation of immigrants will have the opportunity to continue building this country with the immeasurable contributions of those who seek our shores. I pray that this country will find new leadership soon and that new leadership will shepherd the United States of America back to a level of freedom and opportunity that you dreamed of and will continue to gift the sweet gift of freedom to those who knock on its doors.

With love always.


Dad's Stained Glass in our home. An art show which he would have enjoyed.

56 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All



bottom of page