A young girl lived a life cursed from the start, yet I sit here, failing to acknowledge every blessing that is graced upon me.
A young girl walked along a treacherous gravel road with her bare feet, yet I stroll upon the path destined for glory. I have witnessed a few of the spectacular beauties of our world, yet all this young girl could picture was her inevitable and gloomy fait. This young girl’s name was Helena and she was one of the six million helpless victims of the ruthless Holocaust. Her story has made me begin to understand what many choose to ignore, that everything in this world is completely relative.
I have always believed that one cannot whine about one’s situation like an ignorant child without understanding the circumstances of the man right beside him. It is the comparison of our lives with others that supplies us a true reflection of our status. Whenever we feel satisfied with our achievements, we must constantly remind ourselves that there is someone else that is better, someone that is always ahead.
This phenomenon allows us to keep striving for greatness, and gives us reason to keep working harder. Being relative also puts our pain into perspective. We must recognise the agonising struggles of others before emphasising our own. Thinking in this manner can make us understand the somewhat strange decisions of the people around us.However, a journey on March of the Living in Poland challenged my theory much further than even the wearing train tracks leading to the dreaded concentration camps. How can one understand the rationale of Hitler’s actions when trying to fathom the unspeakable crimes he committed? I stood in silence. This question burned a gaping hole in my mind throughout my trip in the freezing landscape, although I did settle on an unsatisfactory conclusion.
I found that the easiest answer was to not understand at all and that I should rather accept. Throughout the journey in Poland we were reminded of the story of the 13 year old Helena, yet I struggled to put the story of this innocent girl into perspective. I was too side tracked by trying to conceptualise the despair of the millions of victims of the Holocaust. It was very cold, as usual, when we visited one of the most brutal death camps, Majdanek. Instantly the biting winds pierced my clothes and the dark surroundings unearthed a sense of uncertainty within. It was clear that evil once lurked here.
I felt as if I had taken a stride into the previous century, as much of Majdanek was preserved and not destroyed by the war. I saw the dormitories. I saw the barbed wire.
I saw the devastation. Shortly after we started our tour, we met a long dirt road scattered with sharp rocks. Soon I realised I was walking the treacherous gravel road. Helena had walked the treacherous gravel road.
My shoes planted where Helena’s bare feet once marched. I discovered the field where Helena once toiled. I examined the cabins where Helena once suffered. I viewed the crematorium that Helena once feared. I cried in the gas chamber where Helena once died.
Helena was there. I could hear her whisper for mercy, but to no avail. It was in this visceral moment when I realised that the answer to my posing, agonising question actually lay within my theory.
All along the solution had been sitting tantalisingly in front of me, yet through this experience the small font had appeared as bold writing in my mind. For one to truly understand the magnitude of the pain of the inconceivable number of victims of the Holocaust, it is necessary to feel the torture of one single sufferer. Only once I could compare the quality of Helena’s life to my own, could I describe the conditions of this nightmarish horror story. This unforgettable experience on March of the Living will literally live with me for the rest of my life to come. This moment at Majdanek has made me understand that yes, it is vital to recognise the circumstances of others, but it is even more crucial to feel the pain of others in order to understand the severity of their conditions. These two weeks of my life stand as tall as the watchtower at Birkenau when in comparison with the other nine hundred and four that I have lived.
I have laughed at moments that Helena could never have dreamt of. I have endured many life experiences that Helena never had a chance to enjoy. I have learnt about tragedies that Helena courageously fought through. I have hated situations that Helena would have wished for. I have lived a free life that Helena could never have imagined. I must embrace the endless opportunities that Helena was never blessed with.
I am now beginning to understand that everything might be relative, but relativity is not necessarily everything.