I’ve always known his name. Selinger. In the early years, I heard it interspersed with rapidfire Yiddish phrases traded back and forth across the dining room table in my grandmother’s apartment in Montreal. Later, as an adult, I would hear it woven through my mother’s tales of surviving the Holocaust.
Here’s the problem. I don’t know any Yiddish. My mother says I don’t want to know. Since it was the only language my grandparents spoke, and I only knew English, I had no idea what they were talking about in those fiery conversations that burned across the chicken soup and poppy seed cake.
Frankly, I didn’t care. None of those stories got us to the amusement park any faster. I figured Selinger was just another one of my mother’s landsmen, another survivor from the town of Wlodawa, Poland.
I have to admit here, I have written a book. In brief, it’s about art, love, vampires and the Holocaust. (You have to write what you know.) A chunk of my Great American Vampire Novel is set in Wlodawa. Now I need to know what it looks like. This is why I love the Internet. I go to Wikipedia, type in “Wlodawa.” I am speechless with amazement as a photograph of the town coagulates on screen.
A neat village square, as quaint as anything I’ve seen as an Anglophilic art student touring through small towns in England. White houses, red houses, yellow houses. It’s adorable. It looks like Greenwich Village.
I click on another site. Up comes a photograph of the old synagogue, an enormous white edifice with a hipped copper roof. It is beautiful, more beautiful than any synagogue I have ever seen here in America.
I scroll down. Something that calls itself the Memorial Book of the town of Wlodawa appears in the lineup. I click on a random chapter and begin to read.