This story appeared in the spring 2014 issue of
Chapman Magazine. It is an excerpt from “In Remembrance There Is Only Kindness,” by Shelli Bautista, Downey High School, 2008. Inspired by the survivor testimony of Ludmila Page. Part of Chapman University’s
Holocaust Art and Writing Contest
Does saving a memory necessarily mean we immerse ourselves with the horrible images of our past? Or could it be as simple as performing an act of kindness every day?
Listening to Ludmila Page, I felt transported back in time. I heard fear in her voice; yet she remained optimistic. It was her optimism that moved me to do something I have never done before.
On January 14, 2008, I called 411 and inquired if a Ludmila Page lived in Beverly Hills. The operator acknowledge one did and gave me her phone number. Two scenarios loomed: I will find her or I will not find her. I prayed repeatedly that the latter was not going to happen. Then, a miracle — I was talking to Mrs. Ludmila Page.
Our conversation was not long. I told her I was participating in Chapman’s Holocaust Art and Writing Contest. She suggested I write to her and promised to answer all my questions. I immediately began composing my letter. Three days later, I realized I had only one question: How do you want me to keep your memories alive?
Twelve days after I mailed the letter, Mila answered, “… all of us should be tolerant and understanding of others regardless of our differences … tolerance and understanding are the best way of remembering, so that the tragic experiences of our lives will never happen again.”
At the beginning of this assignment, I wanted to win in order to meet my survivor. But hearing Mila’s voice transformed an assignment into a journey no words could describe. Elated and excited lost their meanings — what I felt was far stronger.
I have won. This experience is the prize I will carry the rest of my life. A prize that will be a constant reminder of what Mila’s late husband Leopold said: “It is so much easier to love than to hate.”
Over its 15 years, the Holocaust Art and Writing Contest has become an indispensable crossroads — a place where voices of the past inspire witnesses to the future.
Read more about Bautista’s experience and the 2014 Art and Writing Contest.