Sometimes, even now...
Sometimes, even now, the feeling of Joy makes me want to skip instead of walking.
A few months ago during a Sunday breakfast at the most hospitable place in Warsaw, the local J.C.C. I met an interesting and attractive young woman who introduced herself as Karen Finkenzeller, a German correspondent. with whom I had an interesting conversation. It was mainly about my war experiences and about the life which I am leading at the present time.
She mentioned the fact that she was working on a project called THE THREE QUESTIONS and asked if I would be willing to answer them.
My answers to The Three Questions Karen asked and described in the piece about me, I received from her soon after, and with her permission, I am including them here.
“I HAVE WRITTEN A LITTLE TEXT ABOUT YOU AND WOULD BE GLAD IF YOU COULD TELL ME WHAT YOU THINK OF IT. I WOULD LIKE TO USE IT FOR A NEW SERIES THAT WE HAVE STARTED AT "DIE ZEIT".
WE ASK THREE QUESTIONS OF PEOPLE ALL OVER THE WORLD TO FIND OUT WHAT A GOOD LIFE MEANS TO THEM AND WHETHER THEY THINK THAT THEIR LIFE IS GOOD OR ONLY FAIR.
Irenka Polkowska-Rutenberg is back in the city of her childhood. When in 2010 investors offered a handsome sum to convince her to move from her apartment in Manhattan , where she lived for 30 years she decided to leave New York and move to Florida from where she traveled to Warsaw every summer since 2004 and, where two years ago she bought a one bedroom apartment. She is an `animation artist and a sculptor of dolls and figurines who at the time of the big move was already 87. Now at 89, she is still full of plans and possesses an unshakeable zest for life. Now as she wanders through her neighborhood, on the way to and from events, where she tells her story of what it was like, she makes people hear her motto that even the most terrifying experiences have a higher meaning, She travels the same streets where 75 years ago with her hands in the warm muff in front of her stomach she clutched two pistols and once even a grenade, which, she knew, as she followed her father at a distance, were all destined to be used during the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising.
She remembers what she felt at the age of thirteen as a daughter of a Christian father who was very active in the Underground and a Jewish mother, who while hiding for two years at the homes of many different Christian friends, who knew that by allowing her to stay, were risking their own lives.
"I knew that what I was carrying in my muff would be thrown across the ghetto walls in minutes, and a few days or weeks later would be used to kill Germans. I was convinced that I was doing good, because the Germans were bad, had killed many people and wanted to kill many more. "
What does a good life look like for you?
“A long, fulfilling life is like a well spiced soup. Like any good soup, it also has many ingredients, which on their own seem indigestible. But without which, the soup would miss something important and lose its rich and unique flavor. As a child I suffered because I was Jewish, although at the time, I did not even know what that meant. In our home we did not live by the rules of any religion.
As an adult, first in 1975 at 45 and the second in 2002 at 73, I have had two serious bouts with lymph node cancer. During the first chemotherapy was as yet unknown and during the second one, at 73, in 2002 I refused it, preferring a happy life to a long one.
I met Colin Tipping one year later, become a coach of Radical Forgiveness and brought it to Poland. I firmly believe in what I coach that, everything what happens to us happens for us. “Even the Holocaust?” People ask, “Yes” I answer knowing just how awful that sounds. And as the question often appears in my seminars, I have learned to explain my answer by asking if without the Holocaust, the safe haven for Jews as the State of Israel would exist? And even, if Germany without the Holocaust would be the country it is today? On a personal level, I came to the United States at the age of 17. Went to the best art schools Married and raised two sons. Now I have six grandchildren and 16 great-grandchildren. I have never felt as happy and fulfilled as I do right now.
How free can you determine your life to be?
Completely free, since I choose Love rather than Fear all the time. My only problem is that I have to squeeze everything I want to do in very little time. I am determined to live to be 100 years old. But even that much time will not be enough to experience and share everything that matters to me. I know that I can do it since I do not waste time with useless things like doctor’ visits, unless I am really sick. For the first time this winter, after catching bronchitis during my trip to China in November of 2017 I could not travel by plane and consequently did not go back to Florida for the winter. And so, while staying in my lovely Warsaw apartment I allowed my lungs to recuperate and worked on my Blog called LONGEVITY IS VOLUEABLE. I am free of financial worries since my retirement is in dollars. I take minimal amount of medicines and have learned to overcome my pains by relaxing into them. I live a very free and independent life in my apartment where I coach and meet people who I feel I help. I am in love with Warsaw the City I fought for during the Warsaw Uprising in 1944 and a City I saw rise like a phenix from the ashes. And most important, my freedom means that nobody can forbid me anything, not even a single thought.
Is there justice in your life?
Yes, I insist on having it in my life always. I was lucky and succeeded in my life at most everything I did, so now I have decided that I will consider growing old as my ultimate success. I believe in and recognize justice all the time and I try to be loyal, ethical and honorable and in general, to be a (mentch) which means a really good human being.