Sunday, September 30, 2012

Thinking about Vanya's brother, Kerle tonight

Came across this profoundly moving eulogy, written by Vanya's niece, Vivian, about her dear father, Kerle, who was Vanya's brother. So beautifully written, full of love, respect and deeply uplifting. It brought tears to my eyes.

Looking at the photographs, there is one of a newspaper clipping about Kerle's internment in a Japanese prisoner of war camp.

It mentions the family address at that time. I wanted to see where Vanya's family lived then, during World War II. 

There's an image on Google maps of 4481 Avenue Madison
Montréal, QC H4B 2V1, Canada

Vanya had told me many times about her brother being a prisoner of war, the terrible impact it had on the family for years, as everybody didn't know if he would be found, a kind of holding their breath in dread for year after year. I think she felt insignificant and helpless all those years. She was 14 when he was captured in far off Java, 17 years old when he was freed and came home again. Much of their relationship as brother and sister was taken away by that experience, separated by war, fear, disappearance, time and distance. I think it left Vanya somewhat paralyzed in her feelings, unable to grieve, sort of on hold when it came to losing somebody.

His disappearance definitely traumatized her. Of course it was in a much different way than the harsh reality of Kerle's being a prisoner of war, the life and death reality he faced. Her trauma was internal, no obvious wounds she could talk about or show anybody. But the fear of losing her brother, of not knowing, all those years, the dread, it hurt her deeply and left deep scars.

Strange to know Vanya's brother only from her point of view, not having met him in person. I wish I had met him. I spent 20 years of my life hearing stories off and on about Kerle. An odd mosaic hologram that, knowing about him through his sister's memories and thoughts. 

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