Heda Remembers Hana:
Brno:There exists no luck
“There exists no luck, everything is, as it should be, we meet the people who we are fated to meet, we experience what we are fated to experience in our life.”
(G. Brady, May 2005)
When my son Thomas was only three years old, he used to love big garbage containers. Later he even discovered rubbish dumps. He used to carry “needed things” as he himself called them. He even called them “treasures”. He never seemed to outgrow this. So it didn’t surprise me at all, when I got a phone call, that he had found a treasure.
As you may have guessed, I had a different opinion of his “treasures”. He asked me briefly to prepare some rags to dry some items, which he would bring in. It was a typical December day, raining and snowing. Before he hung up, he declared that this time I would like the treasures.
I thought: “What will it be this time?” But like a loving mother, I prepared everything and waited. When I heard the doorbell, I opened the door and saw two fruit crates, chock-full with books. Thomas appeared behind with another crate. Thomas looked at me and with his disarming voice and a smile on his face: “That’s quite a bit, isn’t it? I was surprised, too.” We carried the crates to the hall and started drying. In the first crate, there were some children’s books. I was really happy, because I’m a professor of children’s literature and my books were circulating among children all the time. I started with the third crate. It looked the least interesting. It was filled with scrapbooks and exercise books. I carefully dusted all the photos, which were marked with the year on the back side. They all were from the period of the First Republic. I didn’t particularly look at them. Then I started to dust the exercise books. I opened one of them and I read with surprise. Terezin 1943, diary of Jiří Brady. Here, day after day, was described the life of a boy, who had written, how he had been going to work each morning and how he had been learning in the evening. He complained about the strictness of teachers, about the problems with classes, I even discovered a cheatsheet for a History test! He had also written about his sister Hana. Anxiously, I took in hand another exercise book. Below this, I discovered a “Vpred magazine”. With enthralment I read individual stories, viewed the pictures and imagined all the girls, who had taken part in written for this girls’ magazine. At the bottom of the crate other things emerged – a Jewish star, a deportation notice to come to an assembly point for Jews, with the names: Jiří Brady and Hana Brady, bankbooks made out in Nové Město na Moravě, a bankbook made out in Terezín in Jiří Brady’s name, personal letters from Terezín and to Auschwitz by Hana Brady. The scrapbooks were also filled with photos. We were excited and wondered whether Jiri and Hana had survived. In the evening, I couldn’t fall asleep and I was thinking about what to do next.
In the morning I called the Jewish museum in Prague. I told the lady who answered about our find and asked her, if she could assist in our search of Jiří and Hana Brady. She told me, that she would try and she took our phone number. She called me three days later, and informed me, that she couldn’t help us, because she couldn’t find anything. I was disappointed. But Christmas was almost upon us and in the pre-Christmas rush I postponed the search to a later time.
I like Christmas, because I visit all our loved ones, and also because I have time for reading. Amongst my reading, I was thumbing through a copy of the review magazine “Ladění” and discovered a review of the book “Hanin kufřík” (Hana’s Suitcase). I quickly shouted to our whole family: “I have discovered our Jiří and Hana, finally!” They already were “our” Jiří and Hana. We felt, that they belonged to us, because we still had their personal belongings. And the search started once more, not in Brno, but in Prague. Step by step, we came closer and finally found Mr. Herman, the son of a cousin of Mr. Brady’s. We communicated with him and told him about the discovered things. He asked us to send them to him. He wanted to confirm the items. We decided to scan a few items and mail them. Then Mr. Herman emailed them to Mr. Brady.
I wondered whether the things really belonged to “our” Jiří and whether he would call us. Immediately the next day, he emailed me and if he could phone me. I was looking forward to saying to my family that we had really discovered Mr. Brady.
That same day in the afternoon, at home, before I even had the chance to take off my coat, the phone rang. As usual I introduced myself with an impersonal voice and from the other side I heard: “Here is George, that is Jiri, Brady from Toronto!” “Pardon?” “Mrs. Pavlovská, here is Jiri Brady, I want to thank you for the photos. They came on the eve of my birthday and I must say, that it has been the most beautiful birthday since the war. How well did you choose that one photo you included!
I replied: “It was only luck.” And Mr. Brady told me: „There exists no luck, everything is, as it should be, we meet the people, who we are fated to meet, we experience, what we are doomed to experience in our life. My mother led your hand. You sent me her photo, where she stands with her uncle, my grandfather’s brother, who helped me run away from communist Czechoslovakia. It wasn’t just luck.”
We talked for a while and finally agreed that he would pick up the treasure trove when he was next in Brno.
The handover occurred in May. I will never forget this day. We distributed the things over our table for twelve people. The table was full. Mr. Brady came with his daughter, Lara. When he saw the table, full of his and Hana’s personal things, he got misty eyed and said: “This is really a treasure. This is my history.” He didn’t know or hadn’t realised that we had so many items. At the time I remembered, that I had never told him, that I had so many of his things. Mr. Brady went to the table very slowly and started to take one thing after another. He didn’t take any notice of us, when he was reading his diary and the “Vpred” magazine. After a long while, he said to Lara: “Here they wrote about “Bradicka”, this is about Hana. And Hana here has her story. Than he read the diary and said: “I forgot absolutely that I had written a poem.” And with a smile he threw in: “Maybe because of the hunger.” And so it continued all the afternoon…
When they carried away their treasured possessions, carefully packed in a case, George thanked us and while saying goodbye, reassured us that: “Everything is, as it should be, that we should have met.”
Our families have become great friends and this is how it should be.