Mira Kniaziew-Stuptnik A 15538 and Lea Zajac-Novera 33502 are two survivors from Auschwitz-Birkenau, the biggest extermination and concentration camp built by the Nazi Germany regime after invading Poland at the beginning of World War II. After a happy childhood in Poland, their homeland, and an adolescence cut short by their detention in the concentration camp, they both managed to survive and flee to Argentina, where they went on with their lives -without forgetting. These two close friends have the determination, the strength and the will to remember and disseminate the truth about one of the cruelest events in the 20th century.
What resources did they develop to face life? What is their perspective now that they are elderly women? Does time heal all wounds? Is it possible to forgive? Can life make sense after living in hell?
Now in their old age, they offer a moving example of resilience in this documentary.
The power to transcend existence and transform life into a unique experience
Lea (Liza) Zajac-Novera was born in Bialystok, Poland, where she had a happy childhood. But in September 1939, when World War II broke out and she was 12 years old, her life was torn forever. She and her family were sent to and jammed into the Pruzany Ghetto. In February 1943 they were transported to the Auschwitz extermination camp. Her parents and siblings were immediately sent to the gas chamber, while Lea and her aunt managed to survive, day by day, almost miraculously. After two years in hell, with the end of the war near and the evacuation of concentration camps, Lea was part of the Death March, and was liberated by the Russians on the banks of the Elbe river on April 23, 1945. Two years later, she illegally arrived in Argentina from Uruguay. In Argentina she got married and had two children and five grandchildren.
Mira Kniaziew-Stupnik was born in Bialystok, Poland, in 1928. When the Second World War broke out, the harmony of the home she shared with her parents and brother was broken. When Poland was divided between the USSR and Germany, her home town got to be controlled by the Soviet Army, but in 1941 the German troops entered the town and a man hunt ensued. Being the daughter of the Administrative Director of the town’s Israeli Hospital, she witnessed her father’s efforts to keep the dispensary working until he was taken to the Ghetto. In 1943 she and her family were taken to a forced labor camp called Blizyn, and then to Auschwitz. There, she was about to be sent to the gas chamber, but an order to dismantle the camps saved her. Mira and her mother stayed at the camp until the Red Army arrived, and they returned to Bialystok with two friends. She arrived in Argentina in 1960, where her husband was waiting for her. Their only daughter had already been born in Poland. She has two grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.
“People who have no memory have no future.” Lea
“First, love: then a sense of humor, and being helpful and feeling you are needed. At least in my case, this helps me to carry on.”
“I had no hope I would get out of Auschwitz, but there are miracles.”
“I can bear what happened to me if I give, if I help, if I love. That’s how I get the strength to carry on.”
“I don’t know if it’s naïveté or a desire to live. Even against all logic, an instinct keeps you alive until the last moment.”
“I like to write, and it helps me a lot… Thanks to this passion, I go on living.”
“I have no religion. I’m Cartesian. I exist because I doubt, but if God existed, He died in May and June of 1944 in the Auschwitz crematories.”
“Live is so short that I always say, ‘Try to live, eat up the world in a sandwich… because life goes by so quickly you won’t even notice.’ Life is terribly short.”
“Looking back, I can say that, in spite of what happened, we lived and overcame all that horror.”
“There were people who put their lives and the lives of their family in danger in order to save someone.”
“Sometimes I want to forget, but they keep on reminding me.”
Lea and Mira participate in the literary workshop directed by Graciela Komerovsky within the Tzedaká Foundation’s Holocaust Survivors Help Program.
Historias de mi mochila – by Lea
¡¿Quo Vadis Mundo?! – by Mira
Capitulación de Alemania ante las fuerzas aliadas.
Discurso pronunciado en el Acto Central Conmemorativo de Iom Hashoá en el 71 aniversario del Levantamiento del Gueto de Varsovia
Los últimos días de Auschwitz.
“Yo viví en las entrañas del horror y me duele que Williamson viva acá”
Shoah generations in Argentina
Lea and Mira are members of the Standing Survivors Council