Tuesday, March 1, 2011

My new Australian Hero, Olga Horak

Not only is there fun in the sun, beaches, kangaroos and koalas to be had in Australia during Mardi Gras there is also some culture to experience. Brendan and I visited the Sydney Jewish Museum to learn about the rich and beautiful history of the Jewish people of Australia from their earliest beginnings to the present day. Located in Darlinghurst neighborhood of Sydney's Jewish Museum is not only a place to learn about the Jews of Australia but how the country became a haven and refuge for Holocaust survivors after WWII. The museum has several holocaust survivors who volunteer and give testimony to what they went through during the Shoah (Holocaust) and one of those refugees from Czechoslovakia that we had the honor of meeting was Olga Horak, an 85 year old  woman who is the Elie Wiesel of Australia.
 Olga had just finished speaking to several large groups Aussie students when we casually bumped in to her as she was finishing her shift. She saw me and my star of David necklace and asked me where I was from and a natural and intimate conversation was struck. This woman spoke to us for about an hour and a half just the three of us walking and talking and we asked her so many questions of her experience of what it was like for a teenager from Bratislava to be arrested and sent to Aushwitz with her family, forced into grueling 12 hours a day slave labor digging trenches for tanks with almost no food and toward the end sent on a death march, when the camp was liberated she weighed only 29 kilos or 64 pounds and could not even stand up. It took her two years to recover, but she met her husband, married, and was able to gain entry to Australia where she chose to go as far away from Europe as she possibly could. Not only did she survive, she thrived, building a clothing business a large family and wonderful life which she is constantly giving back to the community and telling her story. We were so impressed and touched by this amazing woman that I immediately bought her book at the museum's bookstore, Auschwitz to Australia, A Holocaust Survivor's Memoir. 
Brendan, Olga and myself holding her book, Auschwitz to Australia

Video Interview of Olga Horak on 60 Minutes Australia

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