By Joanie Holzer Schirm
On this day 80 years ago, May 21, 1939, my 27-seven-year-old Czech Jewish father, Oswald “Valdik” Holzer, said his last goodbye to his parents at the Prague railway station. After Nazi occupation and persecution, dad was driven from his native land. His first port of refuge was Shanghai, China. Soon he was practicing medicine in the interior of China. In Peking/Beijing in fall 1940, he met and fell madly in love with my mother, Ruth Alice Lequear, born in China of American missionaries. Their love affair lasted 60 years before dying within two days of each other in Melbourne, Florida.
Because of pure hatred, my dad lost his parents and 42 relatives in the Holocaust. Today I remember that I exist because my father chose to leave all that was precious to him and against all the odds find a way to start a new life of good works in America.
Dad’s story is timeless, timely, and relatable for so many people today. With these words of remembrance, I honor my grandparents Arnošt and Olga and their son, my dad.
Quote from Olga Holzer’s letter, May 1942, Prague: “My dear Valdik, Today is Sunday, and it has been exactly two years that I saw you off to the railroad station. That was the most painful day of my life. What all has changed in your life, perhaps it was just your good luck. In my mind, I send you and your Ruth a kiss.” Your Mom
Never forget: What you do can banish the darkness. What you do can protect the dignity of others. We each can make a difference in creating a more caring world. Let’s do it.
Joanie Holzer Schirm is the author of “My Dear Boy: A WWII Story of Escape, Exile, and Revelation.”