By ALEXANDER DOLITSKY
Sophie’s Choice is a 1982 British film written and directed by Alan J. Pakula. It stars Meryl Streep and Peter MacNicol, and was honored with numerous American and international film awards.
I believe that this film will always be a relevant example to those who face hard decisions and life and death–related choices. Here is a summary of the film adopted and edited from Wikipedia:
In the summer of 1947, Stingo, an aspiring writer from the American South, settles with a family pension in Brooklyn, New York. His tranquility is soon disturbed by the terrible argument of a couple who live upstairs. When he meets them, he is captivated by the charm and sympathy that they both possess.
The woman, Sophie Zawistowska, is a beautiful Polish immigrant of the Catholic faith. The man, Nathan Landau, is a charming but highly unbalanced scientist of Jewish descent. Little by little, Stingo becomes the best friend of the couple. While seeking to protect her from Nathan’s ongoing abuse, Stingo falls in love with Sophie.
Having survived the extermination camp of Auschwitz during World War II, Sophie is tormented by her past. She has a terrible secret that she has never told anyone, until she decides to reveal it to Stingo.
She reveals that, upon arrival at Auschwitz, she was forced to choose which one of her two children would be gassed and which would proceed to the labor camp. To avoid having both children killed, she chose her toddler son, Jan, to be sent to the children’s camp, and her older daughter, Eva, to be sent to her death.
This dramatic story reminds me of the equally dramatic story told by my great–aunt, Polya, about her nephew, my father, Boris Dolitsky. Fortunately, this tragic story had a happy ending. My father was born in 1918, just a year after the eruption of the 1917 October Socialist Revolution in Russia. He was born in Vinitsa—a small town in the central Ukraine. Historically, Ukraine was one of the provinces of the Russian Empire and after the 1917 Socialist Revolution, it became a part of the Soviet Union until its independence in 1991.
After the Socialist revolution in Russia, from December 1918 through the early 1920’s, the country was tormented by a Civil war in Ukraine, with an assortment of foreign intervention of French, British, and Polish armies, the anti-revolutionary White Army and the pro-revolutionary Bolshevick Red Army.
In addition to the military invasions, people also suffered from the draconian policies of the “Military Communism,” bloody anti-Soviet peasant uprisings, and various militarized bands led by anarchist Ukrainian atamans (e.g., Cossack leaders Syemyon Pyetlyura, Nestor Makhno, etc.). Pogroms (brutal attacks on the Jewish communities) were a common practice among Ukrainian bands and resulted in the massacre of tens of thousands of Jews—just for a fun of it.
One day in 1919, a detachment of Cossacks entered Vinitsa, intent on carrying out the ferocious pogroms. A small group of Jews, including descendent members of my family, hid in the crawl area of the house, while a bunch of Cossacks entertained themselves in the rooms above. In the crawl area, the Jews were soundless and terrified. My grandmother, Pulya, held tightly her infant son (my father) with terrifying thoughts that he could make a noise and the entire group of Jews in the crawl area will be revealed and then mercilessly raped and executed on the spot by the brutal intruders. She realized that she could not sacrifice the other Jews in the hiding if her infant son started crying; she would have to suffocate him in order to save the others. Pulya, however, knew she would not have the strength and courage to kill her own son. So, she passed her son to her sister Polya and, with her eyes full of tears, commanded in a quiet voice, “Polya, no matter how difficult it could be for you, I beg you, hold my son. Put your arm on his little face and if he starts making a noise, then you know what to do… I cannot.” The sister tragically obeyed her and welcomed the child, my father, to her arms.
Upstairs, the Cossacks danced, sang, drank, and ate through the entire night; in the crawl area, the Jews were breathless and silent. My father peacefully slept all night in the arms of his aunt Polya, not making even a reticent sound. The Cossacks left the following morning, leaving behind a terrible mess in the house. The Jews slowly and quietly got out of their hiding and, one-by-one, approached my infant father with a smile and gratitude for his silence in the crawl all night.
From that day on, they called him a “Golden Child” or Hamsa—a lucky child in the Jewish tradition, and one who can ward off evil forces.
Indeed, my father was a lucky person through his entire life: He survived starvation in Ukraine in the 1930s, the Great Red Terror of the 1920s, World War II, and Stalin’s purges against his ideological rivals. And, luckiest of all, he was able to live the last years of his life in America.
Today, our country is at a political, ideological, religious and cultural crossroad—a point at which all Americans must make crucial decisions that will have far–reaching consequences for the future of our nation. Indeed, the country is polarized to its core. Neo–Marxist ideology, its outgrowth “white privilege” and “critical race” doctrines, and the massively deranged left media have penetrated our educational, political, ideological and moral values, and traditional lifestyles.
All Americans must be courageous and stand strong against this radical madness; they must stand up and unite for Freedom, Liberty and Truth.
We all make our personal and civic decisions on behalf of and for the future generations of our country. We carefully choose our support groups and political parties, elect our leaders, and guard and preserve our Judeo–Christian core cultural values. Certainly, these decisions are not life and death–related choices, compared to those described in this article. However, they make a fundamental impact on the destiny, cultural landscape and civil makeup of our exceptional, democratic and free society.
We make our choices and our choices make us.
Alexander B. Dolitsky was born and raised in Kiev in the former Soviet Union. He received an M.A. in history from Kiev Pedagogical Institute, Ukraine, in 1976; an M.A. in anthropology and archaeology from Brown University in 1983; and was enroled in the Ph.D. program in Anthropology at Bryn Mawr College from 1983 to 1985, where he was also a lecturer in the Russian Center. In the U.S.S.R., he was a social studies teacher for three years, and an archaeologist for five years for the Ukranian Academy of Sciences. In 1978, he settled in the United States. Dolitsky visited Alaska for the first time in 1981, while conducting field research for graduate school at Brown. He lived first in Sitka in 1985 and then settled in Juneau in 1986. From 1985 to 1987, he was a U.S. Forest Service archaeologist and social scientist. He was an Adjunct Assistant Professor of Russian Studies at the University of Alaska Southeast from 1985 to 1999; Social Studies Instructor at the Alyeska Central School, Alaska Department of Education from 1988 to 2006; and has been the Director of the Alaska-Siberia Research Center (see www.aksrc.homestead.com) from 1990 to present. He has conducted about 30 field studies in various areas of the former Soviet Union (including Siberia), Central Asia, South America, Eastern Europe and the United States (including Alaska). Dolitsky has been a lecturer on the World Discoverer, Spirit of Oceanus, andClipper Odyssey vessels in the Arctic and sub-Arctic regions. He was the Project Manager for the WWII Alaska-Siberia Lend Lease Memorial, which was erected in Fairbanks in 2006. He has published extensively in the fields of anthropology, history, archaeology, and ethnography. His more recent publications include Fairy Tales and Myths of the Bering Strait Chukchi, Ancient Tales of Kamchatka; Tales and Legends of the Yupik Eskimos of Siberia; Old Russia in Modern America: Russian Old Believers in Alaska; Allies in Wartime: The Alaska-Siberia Airway During WWII; Spirit of the Siberian Tiger: Folktales of the Russian Far East; Living Wisdom of the Far North: Tales and Legends from Chukotka and Alaska; Pipeline to Russia; The Alaska-Siberia Air Route in WWII; and Old Russia in Modern America: Living Traditions of the Russian Old Believers; Ancient Tales of Chukotka, and Ancient Tales of Kamchatka.