The Second Chance of a Lifetime

Four summers ago I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to travel to the Czech Republic and Poland on an organized trip for Jewish teens. One of the things about my trip that stands out to me was our visit to two of the concentration camps in Poland. While it was one of the most amazing experiences of my life, I was very young and did not understand the importance of the places I was in and the stories I learned.

Therefore, I was so thankful to be given the chance by Texas Hillel and the JDC to go to Hungary and Romania, now being four years older and wiser.  A big part of our journey throughout Hungary involved learning about Jewish life in the country pre- and post-Holocaust. I have not explored much about the Holocaust since returning from my trip four years ago, and to again be in a country where so many lives were affected by the events of the Holocaust, my thoughts and feelings were overwhelming. Walking through the Holocaust museum in Budapest, I looked at pictures and stories and could only think to myself that I had been to these camps and at the time I visited, I was the same age as many kids were when they were sent to live there. As powerful of an experience as that was, having time to talk with several Holocaust survivors is one memory I will never forget. It was so touching and fulfilling to see the joy and happiness in their eyes when we walked through the doors of the café where we met them. They were so taken aback by the fact that we, American teenagers, had interest in coming to visit their country and wanted to learn and hear their stories. It pleasantly surprised me to see how content they were to still be living in Hungary and to have children and grandchildren who love and care for them.

Visiting the concentration camps is an experience I will forever hold with me, and now I have these stories from survivors, which have taught me a great deal. This experience has taught me to be thankful for my family and for the freedom and opportunities we have here in the States. While people always say, “don’t take things for granted” I now truly understand what that means, and that means to me that one should learn from their hardships and be grateful for all that they have. Thank you JDC for giving me the opportunity to be immersed in such a rich and meaningful learning experience. 

Marissa Shiller

University of Texas, Sophomore

Written By

March 28, 2013 at 8:55 PM




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