Japanese Display Swords

Relationship: Child of im/migrant
Japanese display swords and stand
Japanese display swords and stand

Even though I have no Japanese ancestry, I consider this pair of swords to be an important part of my heritage. The longer sword is called a katana, and the smaller one is called a wakizashi, and I inherited these display swords from my late grandfather, a Polish Jew. I don’t know exactly how he received them, but I was told that the swords were most likely a gift from my uncle, who was the oldest of my mother’s siblings, given around the late ‘80s or early ‘90s – when my brother and I were born. My grandfather relished the chance to own weapons when he lived in the USA. Growing up in Poland, Jews were not supposed to own weapons, nor to defend themselves. These swords, as well as guns that he owned, represented a power he had not previously experienced. My grandfather’s story encompassed many countries. He fled Poland as a teenager, taking refuge in Russia while the rest of his family died in the Holocaust. At some point he was in a displaced persons camp in Italy, before joining a cousin in Cuba, where he met my grandmother. When my mother was only months old, my grandfather moved his family to America, fleeing Castro’s rise to power. It was as an adult in America that he was exposed to many other cultures, developing an affinity for Japanese culture from his belief that they were a very intelligent, cultured people – these were values that were important to him. I consider these swords to reflect many aspects of the complex person that he was.

Year: 1961

– Sarah Ketani

Relationship:  Child of im/migrant Child of im/migrant