I escaped from Poland during the Holocaust

NOTE: This story is the testimony of a Holocaust survivor named Jona Goldrich, courtesy of USC Shoah Foundation, to whom he gave a video recording of this testimony in 1995. These words were made into a public sculpture by Nicola Anthony in 2018. See it here.

My name is Jona Goldrich, I was born in Poland in Galicia, in a small town called Turka, September 1927. The population was half Jewish. My father Alexander was considered a wise man, he taught us to be independent. I learned a lot from him.  He told me the only thing they can’t take away from you is what is inside your head. My Mother Elza was very observant and worried about her children; we were three brothers. She headed The Women’s Charity. We always had an open house for poor people. My 17 year old brother didn’t survive; his name was Isaac.


There was always antisemitism in school; calling us names, even throwing rocks at us. Jews were considered second class citizens. In June 1941 the Nazis marched in and made us put on white arm bands with the Star of David; we were not allowed to go out at night. They took the old people out into the forest and dug a big grave and shot them all: 300 people. My rabbi and his wife were shot. Our family hid in the attic for two weeks, with barely room to lie down. My father decided it was time to do something else.


I left my home in July 1942, just me and my younger brother Avram; I was 14. There was no hope in our city, there was no chance of surviving there. My father decided that we shouldn’t go as a whole family, it was safer for kids, and the family wouldn’t get caught at one time. He hired a guide, Michael, who took us through the mountains at night. We walked four days through the forest. I felt a little bit scared that I would never see my parents again. The guide took us to Munkatch, Hungary. My Father sewed some diamonds into our clothes so we would have money. It felt very bad to be so dependent on other people. Anyone that got caught hiding Polish Jews got arrested. It’s hard to tell a 12 year old how dangerous it is. It was tough on me, the responsibility that something might happen to my brother. That was my biggest fear. There isn’t a day in my life that I don’t think about what happened.


I went to the Palestine office every day, they were going to let 50 children in. It was the only safe place from Europe to go. We left for Palestine in December 1942. We had just enough to carry on our backs. The trip lasted almost a month by train. The train went from Hungary to Romania to Bulgaria to Turkey, then Syria to Lebanon to Haifa (Israel). When we crossed the border everybody kissed the ground. We didn’t know what happened to our parents until the war ended; we hoped they survived somewhere.  They made it to Hungary but they got caught by the police. I felt guilty that if I had stayed with my family, maybe they would have survived too. If you don’t have a childhood, then you don’t know exactly what you’ve been robbed of.



I couldn’t quite believe or recognize that such raw, overwhelming and non-negative emotions existed in this world

I met him in New York and it changed everything in my life. I honestly thought I was happy before - I was dating a guy I liked for three months, I had just started a new job which was getting good, I was on my first work trip, I had wonderful friends around me, I looked good and felt good, I felt my life was opening up for me in ways it hadn’t before. But when I met him and we interacted with each other, the level of love and happiness I felt knocked me over. It wasn’t immediate because I couldn’t quite believe or recognize that such raw, overwhelming and non-negative emotions existed in this world. In the days and months that followed even when I felt the saddest that we were apart, it was always accompanied by this huge benevolent gush of love and life force that flowed through and around me. It was never the sadness of the past which was empty and void. He is everything in a way that makes me feel whole and alive even without him. I have never felt this way before. He knows I like him but I don’t think he knows how deep these emotions flow and I hope someday he will know this.

There were many times where the thought of “Will I ever have a boyfriend, a husband in my life?” came to mind.

Coming from a family with strict & traditional upbringing, it had been a bumpy journey growing up. With parents setting the ground rule of “no-boyfriend-till-you-graduate”, it became awkward for me to approach such topic. There were many times where the thought of “Will I ever have a boyfriend, a husband in my life?” came to mind. After 27 years, I found the companion that I had been searching for, I never thought I would ever find that special someone to spend the rest of my life with.

That we are each a you-niverse of infinite possibilities.

I am happy because I finally realised I am the love I have always wanted and deserve. That we are each a you-niverse of infinite possibilities. That I am and we are slowly unlearning our way into unconditional love. That the first step is self-care. That loving yourself is one step closer to loving nature and others in an authentic, sustainable, centered way. I am grateful.

A print of myself into your memory

When I am down. I fall deeply down. I mope in my thoughts. Sometimes I confide in someone. Sometimes I keep it to myself. Last time I used to vomit out the words into my diary. The thing is, I seem often happy. Really, compare me to any other more unfortunate people around the world lacking in food, water and shelter, I am considered well-off enough. I do not need to worry about the next day and how I can survive. But yet, sometimes I feel down. I've seen more than one friendship that I've had fading away in front of me. And sometimes (maybe because I don't necessary ask for it) , I wonder if I mean anything to anyone. If I am gone one day, will I be missed? Will they just mourn for me until a month or a week is over and put it aside in their mind? Why am I here again? Is there a reason I was born? What if I am actually unneeded? Then what is the point? Is my life meaningless? Those questions are the reason why I try so hard to leave something behind to show that I existed. A print of myself into your memory. A good deed done for a random stranger. Reaching out first to help people. But then again, the things you do for others, they might not always remember. They move on with their lives. And that is just how it is. But what can I do? For now, I don't really know. Because the future is uncertain, although I wish there was some way to know.

I wasn’t planning on it, but we fell in love

I had just gotten out of a very serious relationship because I wanted to travel and he could not understand that. I was traveling and felt like I had figured things out - I was going to explore and after, move to my home city, start working there and “settle down”. Then I met this guy and everything changed. I wasn’t planning on it, but we fell in love. We did long distance for a bit, I moved to be with him in London, and then we moved to start a life together in Singapore. While this was not how I saw my life going - I’m happy that I was open to the new path and I’m so happy I went on this unexpected journey with my now fiancé, future Husband.

The vast and unexpected mountain that is life

It was my 30th birthday, and while I have had some or happiest times in Singapore, it is occasions like this where the absence of friends and family from your home country is felt most deeply. It’s as if I could feel each and every step of the 10,800 km that separates you from the home in which you grew up in. As I sat up on my bed, and walked across to my kitchen, my girlfriend was instructing me to go back into the bedroom. I had no idea what was in store for me. She soon called me back into the living room, and said: “I have a very special day planned for you my dear, all I ask is that you keep an eye on your phone.”

She did not disappoint. Over the course of the day, I received 60 different video messages from friends and family across the world. I was overwhelmed with happiness. It’s as if at that point technology had help us overcome those 10,800km, and I was sitting at home in my family living room opening cards and sharing laughs all together. It turns out my girlfriend had spent the preceding weeks contacting each and everyone of the people closest to me, and asked them to send across a message. While it was the videos that brought about that moment of unexpected happiness, I cannot underplay the thoughtfulness of my partner in bringing about this moment. Her actions bring me moments of unexpected happiness each and every day, and I feel so grateful to have this person by my side, scaling the vast and unexpected mountain that is life.

I felt unimaginable joy as I descended the hill

I climbed 2700 ft up a hill in Yorkshire. Ingleborough one of the highest peaks in The Dales. At the top I saw a huge steel cage. Locked in were Ravens and Blackbirds. Scattered on the floor were dead new born lambs for the birds to eat but no water. I went up to the cage and saw the sad eyes of the birds. I felt great sorrow. In an instant without thinking I went around the cage and saw a panel that could be moved. Suddenly my small body filled with strength as I pulled at the panel of steel bars. With all my might I strained and shifted the panel just a few inches. The birds flew to the gap and escaped flying upwards. I shouted ''be free my friends'',  as they circled above me. I felt unimaginable joy as I descended the hill. A small Robin Redbreast followed behind me for a long while. Sweetly singing as if to thank me. I discovered later that farmers trap Ravens to protect newborn lambs and also feed them dead lambs that didn’t survive birth. I still feel the joy I felt when I see Ravens.

Happiness is not a continuous state. It comes in small bursts.

A few weeks, something I feared and dreaded happened. I thought it would be scary. It had made me redundant from my job. I thought that I would be very upset. But when it happened it was like putting down a huge back pack of rocks. I felt light and free. I hadn't realised the burden I carried. Since then I have been so happy. Happiness is not a continuous state. It comes in small bursts. You have to stop and appreciate the moments. I have had many of these moments over the last few weeks. Probably more than the whole of last year. It's been incredible.

It would be striking up a conversation with a stranger, where I would share that instant chemistry with and enjoy their attention, connection and the impromptu friendship and vulnerability.

It would be striking up a conversation with a stranger, where I would share that instant chemistry with and enjoy their attention, connection and the impromptu friendship and vulnerability. That gives me an unexpected happiness - as it gives some sort of hope that this conversation and acquaintance could grow into something more? A guilty pleasure/confession is feeling very satisfying, watching people who offended me and hurt me get their Karma pay-back, which always makes them suffer x10 more than what they did to me. That makes me happy and scared of my own self at the same time. The other confession is that there are some guys that would come across to me as intelligent and arrogant and hard to get - I like to use that chemistry I have with them and act completely uninterested and cold - other times low-key flirt - and just play with their minds. I need to stop doing that though.

Happiness is like a butterfly, chase it, and it will run, sit, and it will come sit on your shoulder.

The best moments are unexpected and unpretentious. Sometimes, it is felt in the walk home alone, and sometimes with people you have known most of your life. Happiness is like a butterfly, chase it, and it will run, sit, and it will come sit on your shoulder.

it was a place where what I knew to be socially acceptable, or "normal", was glaringly absent.

I tried to take my life the second time last December. It was serious enough that I had to be admitted to the hospital, in a mental health ward. The duration of the hospital stay was long - slightly more than a week. While I was in there, I managed to recuperate, and to take stock of my life, and to seek treatment for severe depression. That my time in the hospital was unpleasant is an understatement. The ward was filled with patients suffering from a myriad of mental health problems; it was a place where what I knew to be socially acceptable, or "normal", was glaringly absent. Spatially, I felt a sense of entrapment and claustrophobia, and this feeling was made worse by the dim lighting, the general misery, and lack of mobility of the ward's inhabitants.

Yet, it was also during my time there that I was able to experience something life-changing; a serendipitous and fortuitous encounter as it were. I remember noticing, albeit briefly, a particular nurse, and there and then, I remember thinking to myself that there was something tender, gentle, and special about this person. The vibe that pulsated from her was inexplicably positive. I also heard her singing to an old man in a voice that was bright and dulcet, like the trill of a canary.

She smiled at me a couple times, and introduced herself to me shyly, though professionally, when she had to check my belongings. She remained merely an impression, a figure of compassion I would remember as a patient, as a stranger. (Until) On the day I was supposed to be discharged, she came up to me and handed me a present wrapped, as well as a card, sealed in a transparent ziplog bag. Then she said to me cryptically: "This is for you. But you must promise to open the present and read the card ONLY after you leave the ward". I looked at her quizzically, with raised eyebrows and replied: "Ok...."

But I kept my word. I also told myself I'd buy her a present in return, and I decided too that I would leave her my contact details. I got home that night and proceeded to unwrap the present. It was two books about pain and hope. But what sent me into a whirl of shock, surprise, and disbelief was when I read the opening lines of her card: "Dear Ms _____, I can only address you this way because I had the honour of seeing you in school ten years ago." She was a student in the school I used to teach in. I never taught her, but she recognized me. What were the odds, I wondered, of seeing a someone like her in a mental health facility where I was the patient? What were the odds of meeting someone like her when I was at one of the lowest points in my life? But the odds happened. She wrote to me a few weeks later, and we started talking in earnest. It felt surreal then. It still feels surreal now. It is as though I have known her all my life. Today, I can say with thankfulness, gratitude, certainty, and amazement - that I have found my kindred spirit. It took so many twists and turns, so much disillusionment and disappointment, and a powerful dose of kismet to meet her. And I wouldn't exchange it for anything.

Unexpected happiness comes when I connect with kindred spirits

Unexpected happiness comes when I connect with kindred spirits, who share my passion for people, ideas and nurturing a community of creative souls. It’s come in the midst of crisis, when we overcome challenges together, and the happiness comes from knowing that anything is possible when the right people come together.

IT'S BEEN DIFFICULT TO FIND HAPPINESS, AS THERE ARE SOME DEMONS THAT KEEP CREEPING UP ON ME.

It's been difficult to find happiness, as there are some demons that keep creeping up on me. On the outside I may seem happy, but this is often not the case. I find true happiness when I have a drink and let go of everything, except this tends to bite me harder the next day. Oh well, you have to keep plodding along.

After becoming the Mother of two three years ago, I decided to take a pause on my corporate career and much unexpected happiness happened to me and my life.

Longing to be an artist but never got the chance growing up in China. After becoming the Mother of two three years ago, I decided to take a pause on my corporate career and much unexpected happiness happened to me and my life.

So, how many mushrooms is my life worth ?

Heard a "new" word recently - Fungible. How fungible is human life? To what extent can human life serve as a fungible currency? I quote Prof Peter Redfield "The question is far from abstract, as measures of life play an increasingly central role in int'l moral discourse 'n' justification for ....actions. Key metrics in global health like DALY, rest on assumed equivalences. NGO fundraising brochures, along with extensions of consequentialist ethics, suggest easy conversions between money and lives." So, how many mushrooms is my life worth ?

The loneliest time was when I was with someone and the relationship was not quite right but I was too scared to admit it.

Getting divorced after only 6 months of marriage allowed me to discover who I really was, what my values are and what make me happy. The loneliest time was when I was with someone and the relationship was not quite right but I was too scared to admit it.