I actually fell in love with a Catholic Priest last evening. I will be 62 years of age in March. Never have I met a more humbled, more dedicated, more sincere, more sensitive human being in all my life! I was lucky enough to sit down with Father Desbois for just a few moments and give him a copy of my dad’s book, “The Lost Dream” with my contact details inside the book. I also spoke with Father Desbois and told him the little I know of my mom’s brother, Kalma who disappeared and of course presumed killed in the Ukraine. I told him my mom had 3 siblings of which none survived the war. Yet she spoke most often of her brother Kalma and her little sister, Renya. She cried about Kalma because she felt she could have stopped him if she tried, from running to the Ukraine in the last minute. Reality is Kalma was a young man in love wanting to join up with his girlfriend whom he later married so nothing my Mom could have said or done could have stopped him.
Father Desbois told an audience of about 400 people or more last night that he goes back to the Ukraine quite often and his work will not finish for quite some time. Time is of the essence because eyewitnesses of the shooting of thousands upon thousands of Jews will all but disappear. He took my hand in his, and with tears in his eyes and asked me if I gave him my correct contact details as if to say he will try very hard to find the grave of my uncle Kalma. As if to say nothing is impossible if you will it, and if one tries.
The priest, Father Patrick Desbois said so much, so profoundly. To paraphrase him, “How could Christianity rest when there are pits of Jewish human beings buried without names, some were half buried covered with twigs……. Of course he does not work alone and some professionals and students of the Holocaust go with him.
This man was so interesting to listen to. A French Catholic Priest who reveres the Jews, who speaks perfect Hebrew and has dedicated his life to his beliefs which is :
” Every person has a name”. I am glad the priest took my dad’s book to read and from that.. maybe just maybe…
Father Desbois is the author of “The Holocaust by Bullets” which I will run out and try to buy the book today.
One person in the audience asked the priest why could not the bones of the dead be re-buried (in Israel) perhaps. Father Desbois answered correctly and said as a Catholic he could not do this.. this would be up to the Jewish communities…
From all the priest said to the audience last night this stayed with me. On one of his trips to the Ukraine, he asked people why they never spoke up about the Jews until now. One of the Ukranians answered him.. “No one ever asked”……..
He acknowledged (and I knew that from my father) many, but not all of course, Ukranians were terribly anti-Semitic and until today still are. On one of his visits one invited him to a play which could be easily coined as anti-Semitic, but he knew he could not leave or run away, because if he did that, he would not be able to finish his work which is finding out details of the dead Jews and obtaining names whenever possible.
A most touching moment from last evening was when the Rabbi of Beth Tzedek Synagogue cupped his hands on the the Priest’s face and blessed this wonderful man in both Hebrew and English.