Great-Grandmother's Ring

In Attire

My great-grandmother's ring is one of the only items my family has that predates my grandparents’ immigration to the US. It’s precious to my family because it’s the only thing we have that had a physical connection with my great-uncle Henry, without whom none of us would exist.  We imagine it touched Henry’s shoulder as he was put to bed by his mother as a child, or his hand as she said goodbye as he left to run guns into the Warsaw ghetto, praying for his safe return.    Like so many during WWII, my family lost everything. My grandfather’s side was Jewish, and went into hiding during the war, bringing only what they could carry. My grandfather’s father was ill and died while they were in hiding, and his family had to live alongside his body for days before being able to bury him. One night, the Nazi police came for my family. Henry told my grandfather and my great-grandmother to run, and he would stay behind to try to stall the Nazi police. They never saw him again. They went back to look for him and saw only what looked like a human-sized mound burning.    This story is important to me because I feel bolstered by the unimaginable strength of my family when I’m feeling tired or weak. My family’s story also gives me compassion for the horrors people flee today as they try to enter the United States, seeking refuge. People from so many walks of life share the experience no one should ever have, of fleeing from terror towards a better life, and I want to welcome them. 

Year: 1957

– Lissa Vanderbeck

Relationship:  Grandchild of im/migrant Grandchild of im/migrant