We Share the Same Sky: A Memoir of Memory & Migration documents Rachael Cerrotti’s decade-long journey to retrace her grandmother’s Holocaust survival story. The new memoir explores the pursuit of memory and how the retelling of family stories becomes the history itself.
This program, presented by the Museum and Descendants of Holocaust Survivors (2G Greater New York), celebrates the launch of We Share the Same Sky. Cerrotti, who is an award-winning photographer, writer, educator, and audio producer and the inaugural Storyteller in Residence for the USC Shoah Foundation, is in conversation with Ellen Bachner Greenberg, co-founder of Descendants of Holocaust Survivors.
Watch the program below.
This program’s original recording transcript is below. This transcription was created automatically during a live program so may contain inaccurate transcriptions of some words.
Ari Goldstein: I'm Ari Goldstein, Senior Public programs producer at the Museum of Jewish heritage, a living memorial to the Holocaust and it's a pleasure to kick off this evening's discussion with Rachel sorority and Ellen buckner greenberg.
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Ari Goldstein: We are here to celebrate the launch of Rachel sororities new memoir we share the same sky and memoir of memory and migration released, three weeks ago from blackstone publishing.
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Ari Goldstein: Which documents rachel's decade long journey to retrace her grandmother's Holocaust survivors story.
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Ari Goldstein: Rachel is an award winning photographer writer educator an audio producer and the inaugural storyteller in residence for the usc Shoah foundation she's a leading voice focus on Holocaust memory in the third generation.
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Ari Goldstein: This evening's program is co hosted with this sentence of Holocaust survivors, which is a New York based group for.
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Ari Goldstein: Children and other descendants of survivors to connect with each other to share thoughts feelings and memories and learn and teach about the legacy of the Holocaust together.
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Ari Goldstein: Ellen bachner greenberg who's in conversation with Rachel this evening is the Co founder of descendants of Holocaust survivors, along with Eva fogleman.
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Ari Goldstein: Is a leading voice among for Holocaust memory in the second generation so we're so glad to have them both with us.
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Ari Goldstein: As we get into this evening's discussion, please feel free to share our questions in the zoom Q amp a box and we'll get to as many as we can, towards the end of the hour.
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Ari Goldstein: If you feel inspired or intrigued by their discussion, you can order we've shared the same sky at the link in the zoom chat that further ado welcome Rachel and Ellen feel free to get started right.
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Ellen Greenberg: Are you Thank you again for for hosting us and allowing us to participate in this wonderful program and for all the programs, and that you do for us and for the rest of the museum.
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Ellen Greenberg: Rachel it's a pleasure to talk with you we've spoken before on the phone and now we are face to face in in in the coven world.
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Ellen Greenberg: So let's start beginning off by telling us about your your story your book and your grandmother grandmother Hannah who was Holocaust survivor and.
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Ellen Greenberg: Tell us about her life is a Holocaust survivor no she was born in a little town that far from Prague Czechoslovakia and tell us about how she lived there, and she ended up in Denmark.
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Rachael Cerrotti: Sure, first of all hi everybody, thank you for joining us thank you Alan Thank you IRA, so my grandmother Hannah do Baba was born in coleen Czechoslovakia in 1925.
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Rachael Cerrotti: When she was one year old she moved to Prague with her family, which was just before her younger brother was born so she really grew up in a.
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Rachael Cerrotti: You know very modern household you could say it was urban diverse.
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Rachael Cerrotti: fairly secular like culturally Jewish she said when she and I started talking when I was in college, you know she really she really related to me and say no similar to how I grew up, whereas very culturally Jewish.
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Rachael Cerrotti: You know gather together for the family meals within necessarily keep kosher.
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Rachael Cerrotti: But she her Jewish identity was really came through the Zionist youth movement which she joined as a preteen I guess you could say, and that was where she found all her friends, you know at that time, schools and in Czechoslovakia didn't have.
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Rachael Cerrotti: Like sports programs and extracurriculars the way that we do now, so that was really where they they got that type of exercise and socialization and then by the time 1939 comes.
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Rachael Cerrotti: And talks lucky is occupied by the Nazis in World War Two is breaking out my grandmother was very lucky, and she called it a lottery ticket where she was able to get out of occupied.
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Rachael Cerrotti: Czechoslovakia to Denmark in October of 1939 so about a month and a half after the war begins and is able to go with a rescue mission is what I call it.
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Rachael Cerrotti: I would say it's like a kin to the kindertransport but not the kindertransport but that helps people kind of understand where it was for check Jewish teens between the ages of 14 and 16 who were being sent.
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Rachael Cerrotti: to Denmark to learn agricultural skills with intention to eventually go on to Palestine and so that's how she makes her way out of Prague and essentially ends up you know starts the story of her becoming the only survivor and her family.
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Ellen Greenberg: Now um you know it's really interesting because many of us note know a lot about the history of the helpless but.
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Ellen Greenberg: there's a wonderful story behind the Danish people and that 95% of the Jews were saved and it wasn't mandated it was every day people wanting to do this.
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Ellen Greenberg: on their own, so if you could talk a little bit about your grandmother, the Danish people that saved her and what it was like there for her.
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Rachael Cerrotti: yeah so I have so a lot of my work is rooted in Denmark, both from a historical perspective as well as from my own experience.
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Rachael Cerrotti: Is this memoir really blends together my grandmother's journey with my own journey throughout my 20s following her story across Europe, as well as across the United States.
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Rachael Cerrotti: And, Denmark and Scandinavia, in general, is, I would say it's where life lives in this story still to this day, so.
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Rachael Cerrotti: You know, in general, you know we could sit here do a whole history lesson and Denmark, which i'm gonna refrain from doing but.
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Rachael Cerrotti: I really love the history of Denmark and it's not only my mom's side, because this is my maternal grandmother, but my father's mother was actually born in Copenhagen, so I have a Danish connection on both sides of my family.
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Rachael Cerrotti: And so yeah Denmark in general, was a fairly light occupation is it good say you know.
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Rachael Cerrotti: And there's a number of reasons for that that were you know Denmark was a leading producer of food which is very important and more time it had you know people looked aerion.
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Rachael Cerrotti: there's a lot of reasons for why Hitler was a little bit lighter on Denmark as a country is like you know let's say Poland or Czechoslovakia and i'm gonna skip the history lesson for now, but the important thing to know is that.
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Rachael Cerrotti: For those early years of the war, my grandmother was living a relatively normal life, and you know nothing was normal about the time but in comparison to what other people were facing she was well fed she had a home.
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Rachael Cerrotti: And, and she was treated for the most part, with respect, so every six months, these this cohort of check teens that were brought to the Danish countryside.
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Rachael Cerrotti: were moving from one home to another essentially foster homes, and you know they were supposed to go on to Palestine fairly quickly that did not happen because, as the war.
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Rachael Cerrotti: You know continue travel routes, it was just not as easy and so every six months they're moving to different families, and so my grandmother.
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Rachael Cerrotti: i'm very lucky that this whole project is really based off as beautiful archive that she left behind after she passed away and it wasn't a secret archive it was just.
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Rachael Cerrotti: Her memories that she kept and value to the end of her life, and she has some of the diaries from those early years of the 1940s and so that's how I know a lot of this as well as her own personal storytelling.
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Rachael Cerrotti: But depending what home, she was in her experience during war really changed, and what I really love about, that is, you know she was in a family, where she was really treated as a servant and.
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Rachael Cerrotti: You know how she felt about her life during this war time as a teenage refugee was very different than when she would move to the home where they treated her as part of the family.
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Rachael Cerrotti: And you know as a third generation what I really love drawing out of that type of memory that was passed down is just how impactful the way somebody treats you in day to day hat like has on your you know your.
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Rachael Cerrotti: Recently i've been doing a lot of work i'm spiritual resistance, I just want to use that word, you know, but for this this feeling of you know empowerment during a really scary dangerous time.
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Rachael Cerrotti: And so that was one of the lessons I took away from that, but then moving forward to 1943, which is when Denmark was no longer safe for the Jews, there was this incredible rescue operation and ELENA, as you mentioned.
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Rachael Cerrotti: Denmark ends up saving 95% of their Jewish population by illegally firing.
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Rachael Cerrotti: them to Sweden in the matter of you know just about roughly around three weeks, and it was really an operation that was the ground up this did not come from the top down and that's really important.
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Rachael Cerrotti: And so my grandmother was able to get on one of the very last boats out of Denmark in October, and so, by the time she's 18 she was freshly 18 at that time she's not a refugee twice over on this time and Sweden and that's where she spends the rest of the war.
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Ellen Greenberg: And these are just everyday people with boats who just out of the kindness of doing the right thing did this, and I want to share with you a picture of the quarter three, which is not the boat that.
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Ellen Greenberg: That Hannah who, who is rachel's grandmother was on, but this is, this is a boat that.
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Ellen Greenberg: Was gifted by the Danish Parliament, to the Museum of Jewish heritage that is now on display in mystic seaport in Connecticut so this would be a typical boat and your grandmother was underneath on under herring right.
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Ellen Greenberg: That lots of fish.
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Rachael Cerrotti: yeah like I said I don't know exactly what the look like on that for her, but I do know that one of the really.
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Rachael Cerrotti: A lot of my grandmother story and the way she told it was really elevating the unsung heroes so individuals whose name she couldn't tell me who's legacy or history, she couldn't necessarily retell me.
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Rachael Cerrotti: But, for example, the fisherman that very hurt to Sweden, you know, taking these boats was really, really expensive, just as it is for refugees, today, trying to get across the Mediterranean.
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Rachael Cerrotti: And my grandmother had no money she had no money she had nothing, and she has you know, a big part of her story is you know she's.
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Rachael Cerrotti: You know, get getting all the signals to run to the shore and this kind of very you know middle of the wasn't know the night, but in the darkness.
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Rachael Cerrotti: event and she gets to this boat and she you know empty their pockets and says, I have no money in her you know her her now better Danish that has gotten better over the years.
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Rachael Cerrotti: And the fisherman said to her, I didn't ask you hop on board and i'm such a pivotal part of her story, because you know all the other people on board had to pay a lot of money and.
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Rachael Cerrotti: Whether it was pity or kindness it doesn't matter you know she was able to be led on and so her story is very much speckled with a lot of those acts of kindness.
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Ellen Greenberg: what's really neat about your book is it several things first of all it's your grandmother's journey it's through her her personal records her diary conversations with her and it's also your journey.
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Ellen Greenberg: we'll get into that but you know, I was thinking about it, typically went when somebody is doing research in the writing a book they bring the research to them you sit at home everything's at our fingertips not Rachel.
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Ellen Greenberg: Rachel takes all the documents, the diaries and goes and follows her grandmother's journey from from Prague, Denmark, Sweden and then back when she gets in the United States, you take a train cross country.
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Ellen Greenberg: That makes your book so rich with understanding of your grandmother's experience and your own so your book would have been very different edge edge, you said home at the keyboard.
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Rachael Cerrotti: yeah and it started, you know this this I started this project was 20 years old, and I was very discontent in college like I just.
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Rachael Cerrotti: All I knew is, I wanted to be a photo journalist and I knew my grandmother had this incredible story and I knew, she was near the end of her life and so.
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Rachael Cerrotti: You know, over the years it's been you know, a dozen years now since since I started it and.
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Rachael Cerrotti: it's taken a lot of different shapes so for the first four years it was me sitting at home and.
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Rachael Cerrotti: digitizing and re typing and learning and meticulously going through her diaries and saying Okay, she was in this train station here, and these were the people and.
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Rachael Cerrotti: You know, essentially like webbing the whole, the whole thing together building out a timeline and then I left so so there definitely has been large chunks of me sitting at a computer or something.
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Rachael Cerrotti: yeah.
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Ellen Greenberg: But, but you know you could have easily corresponded with the people you could have seen pictures of you know where she went.
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Ellen Greenberg: But being there, I really think adds to it, and when you talk about going to sob door the the place that your family your your your grandmother's brother and her parents were shot and murdered.
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Ellen Greenberg: And there's nothing there just the remnants when you go but there's something just about the trees and everything that you can feel it that you can never get in in a picture.
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Ellen Greenberg: And, and when I was in Poland in Treblinka there's something about those trees, they were sad, they were paying they could talk and so your story of meeting those people who knew your grandmother and their descendants, you know enables you to, I think, have a much deeper understanding.
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Rachael Cerrotti: yeah and something that was you know I I personal stories, I wanted to tell the story of memory, so I wasn't so interested in going into all the archives in Europe and finding out exactly on what day this happen, I mean.
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Rachael Cerrotti: I must have important that that wouldn't that wouldn't have sustained my interest all these years, to be honest and.
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Rachael Cerrotti: I really was really interested in how the story gets passed from one generation to the next, so yeah in Denmark.
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Rachael Cerrotti: I went and I moved in with one of the with the granddaughter of my grandmother's foster mother from World War Two, and so I got to live with their family for over the course of three years, quite a bit of time.
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Rachael Cerrotti: For variety different circumstances, and you know I spent significant time in the home of the descendants of the Swedish fisherman that helped my grandmother in 1943.
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Rachael Cerrotti: And a lot of time with rabbi Ben melky or recently passed away, it was a huge huge part of my storytelling and returning to these people over and over again, not only you know I guess put me in the story which I can't say was super intentional, but just was so natural.
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Rachael Cerrotti: But also it allowed for this like this.
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Rachael Cerrotti: conversation that kept happening of what did they hear.
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Rachael Cerrotti: And when I went out and started, following my history, I think, like many of us as very possessive about it, you know, this is my family history, and this is what happened to us and.
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Rachael Cerrotti: It was very much like kind of this narrow perspective of it happened to us.
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Rachael Cerrotti: And going out and hearing how the standish family is passing the story from one generation to the next, and they send in their family was a good story because they help save somebody.
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Rachael Cerrotti: And same in this family, the fisherman family and sweet, and I mean their whole House felt like.
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Rachael Cerrotti: A museum really like a museum to this history, and you know they weren't Jewish and they weren't victims, but it was such a core part of their family history that they were part of this.
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Rachael Cerrotti: effort is rescue effort and that that really changed the way I understood my history and yeah I made it made the story much more It made it alive, you know still very, very alive and that's a lot of what the book becomes about.
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Ellen Greenberg: And my guest is when you sat down and first interviewed your grandmother back in 2009 you would never have would envision that this would become the huge life that that it has become.
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Rachael Cerrotti: Oh me oh starting a decade long project, there was no way I would have signed up for that, I mean.
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Rachael Cerrotti: You know and and.
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Rachael Cerrotti: it's not even like it's not just like I was doing this project for all these years, like it really became my life and it became very much like the lens in which I saw.
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Rachael Cerrotti: Not just my own life unfold, but also the world around me and politics, and so it really yeah it's really shaped it, but no, I had no, it was not intentional nor Nor can I about.
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Ellen Greenberg: I couldn't have planned a planned it right um when you talk about the lens and, yes, this is your grandmother's story it's your story it's interwoven and it's also through your lens.
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Ellen Greenberg: And i'll use some terms here that Rachel is a 3G she's the granddaughter of survivors, I am the to GM the daughter of of survivors and there's a very different lens between.
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Ellen Greenberg: 3G and a 2G and very early on in the book you talk about your mother that.
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Ellen Greenberg: The difference between you, embracing this and and diving into it and your mother who's who's sort of stepping back.
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Rachael Cerrotti: yeah I don't know if it's a she's studying back, but you know my my mother and you know kind of the family, this is sort of known information in our family mom my mom was the middle of three children and she really was the one that you could say absorbed.
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Rachael Cerrotti: I don't know i'm saying that's just the trauma that really absorb the history in a very.
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Ellen Greenberg: Deep impact.
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Rachael Cerrotti: yeah and a very emotionally intimate way and so both my parents are very into family history, so the apple doesn't fall.
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Rachael Cerrotti: Far from the tree here and um, but it also meant that my mom and I went to a few places over the years we've gone to a number of these places in Europe together and very early on, when I was still kind of like.
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Rachael Cerrotti: You know, early mid 20s, which is very different perspective I have on the world now in my 30s.
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Rachael Cerrotti: You know I remember us going back to colleen together to this town, when my grandmother was and all these.
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Rachael Cerrotti: You know, we really were there as like living memorials for people in this town, we are there for an event we're brought by the mayor and all these journalists are asking us questions about how does it feel to be back in this town and.
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Rachael Cerrotti: yeah there was there was a you know my mom I still talk about a lot, there was this very distinct difference of.
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Rachael Cerrotti: How heavy she felt and almost I was, I was in this place where I was just starting to get really into this work and just starting to travel.
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Rachael Cerrotti: And I was like wow this is kind of cool to be back here and we've taught, you know I think I actually haven't been back to.
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Rachael Cerrotti: Czech Republic in a number of years, and I think now that i've spent so many years immersed in Holocaust education Holocaust history, I might not use those same words, and I might feel it in a much deeper way.
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Rachael Cerrotti: uh huh um but you know that that.
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Rachael Cerrotti: I love that I can talk about it with her, because it is different and she's made me feel very comfortable in the fact that she wants me to feel different about it, she doesn't want me to carry it the way she does and that's that's some of what I explore also in this work.
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Ellen Greenberg: Right, I mean it's very different for for many reasons, you know, those of us, you know children born in the 1950s.
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Ellen Greenberg: You know our our parents were you know 10 years out of the you know, since liberation talking about the Holocaust was really taboo, nobody wanted to hear about it, and you know they.
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Ellen Greenberg: The the impact was still was still very much alive, they hadn't processed it.
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Ellen Greenberg: You know I know with my children my three g's just says with you it's kind of neat to talk to your grandmother about this, is it it's it's neat to know that the history and the pain isn't there, so if your mother had done this story or wanted to it'd be a very different story.
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Rachael Cerrotti: Oh yeah she wouldn't she I mean she's when she wouldn't be able to, and then you know I also, I also want to bring them back that.
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Rachael Cerrotti: You know my grandmother's story at, particularly as she retold it was filled with examples of kindness and almost this uplifting of strangers, and you know she just as easily could have told me a story a story that was.
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Rachael Cerrotti: I don't you know, it was an incredibly heavy story, but I would say much scarier.
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Rachael Cerrotti: She didn't spend a lot of time telling me about her parents and her brother's death, I mean partly, partly because she wasn't there right so.
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Rachael Cerrotti: I have peers of mine who are 3G who perhaps grew up with the memory of Auschwitz from all of their grandparents and so they're getting a very different inheritance than I am where i'm getting my inheritance of.
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Rachael Cerrotti: Living these people who saved me look at this kindness of strangers, the rescue the Danish Jews 90 but you know that's a really different story, and so I think that that's I talk about my peers as well, of like.
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Rachael Cerrotti: they're individuals my agent can touch this because they inherited a different a different piece of this history.
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Ellen Greenberg: right on yeah so the beauty of your grandmother's story is it's not only just about the Holocaust it's it's about the joy and the impact on what you can do later on, it doesn't have to just be drowning in in in the sorrow.
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Ellen Greenberg: and your grandmother really focused on that what's interesting is when we tell stories when anyone tells stories if I tell you a story.
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Ellen Greenberg: We don't always tell the same exact story, the same way and it's not because the facts change it's just what we pick to.
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Ellen Greenberg: pick and choose to tell that particular time might be, depending on what we think the person wants to hear how we're feeling what's going on in the world.
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Ellen Greenberg: If you go in another head told the story to one of her other grandchildren would have been a different story where there's certain messages you think she gave just to you.
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Rachael Cerrotti: Well it's funny because now, with the you know the podcast came out a couple years ago and some you know there's seven of us grandchildren, and so my cousins listen to that, but a book a book is different it's like and the book is like a much more in depth.
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Rachael Cerrotti: telling him the story.
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Rachael Cerrotti: And to my cousins or just reading it now as like my aunts and uncles, and so this is like I was telling them my scariest critics because i'm just.
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Rachael Cerrotti: been so immersed in our grandmother's life into on this story and told it and so.
00:22:26.610 --> 00:22:39.750
Rachael Cerrotti: What what's been really neat is actually talking to my cousin's wife this morning about this that they're picking out things and they're like oh yeah she totally would have said it this way, so i'm getting a lot of like feel goods of just like Okay, you know I.
00:22:39.930 --> 00:22:42.570
Rachael Cerrotti: Right, I think I told her the way that we remember her be.
00:22:42.630 --> 00:22:43.350
Rachael Cerrotti: In some regards.
00:22:45.150 --> 00:22:57.240
Rachael Cerrotti: But I will say that a number of years ago, when I was able to watch the testimony that my grandmother gave to show the Foundation, which I didn't know it existed until number of years into this research.
00:22:57.600 --> 00:23:12.480
Rachael Cerrotti: and watch this morning half hour audio visual testimony and when I interviewed my grandmother I you know I don't know why I didn't buy only type daily didn't record an audio and into a visual mostly because we were just hanging out and it was a very informal retelling of her story.
00:23:13.950 --> 00:23:22.560
Rachael Cerrotti: And a lot of white you know a lot of the questions that the interviewers that show foundation would ask you know any survivor of like why.
00:23:22.740 --> 00:23:23.040
Ellen Greenberg: But.
00:23:23.550 --> 00:23:33.900
Rachael Cerrotti: You know, once you get to the end of this reflection, and you know I, it was very similar to what I was already interested in and what it was you know so they they asked her at one point, they say, you know.
00:23:34.920 --> 00:23:40.770
Rachael Cerrotti: It was question was, but you know what, what do you want people to take away from from your something along those lines.
00:23:41.220 --> 00:23:47.550
Rachael Cerrotti: And you know she said she was you know I want to know what good people can do and she's talking about the rescue the Danish Jews she's saying you know I want.
00:23:47.850 --> 00:23:59.850
Rachael Cerrotti: people to know what a difference, people can make, and she she has this great line she's like I don't know if i'm like you know hitting my head against a wall telling this to students over and over and over again about like what a difference, people can make good too.
00:24:00.960 --> 00:24:11.430
Rachael Cerrotti: But, and then the last thing i'll say about that is my grandmother was an incredibly gifted storyteller her writing is throughout this whole book her diaries are beautiful like even as a teenager she just wrote so.
00:24:11.970 --> 00:24:22.620
Rachael Cerrotti: poetically and one of her gifts as a really good storyteller is that you know she was my vocal she's spoken schools and classrooms and communities and synagogues, and all the lake and she.
00:24:23.220 --> 00:24:34.200
Rachael Cerrotti: told the story to her audience as they could relate to it so she would speak differently to a group of fourth graders or seventh graders more college kids when she went to adults or her peers.
00:24:34.950 --> 00:24:49.710
Rachael Cerrotti: And i'd like to think that I have learned a little bit from her in that sense, because it is really important, yes, your audience, whether at particular if you really want them to feel the story my grandmother just is so gifted at that, naturally, if this beautiful yeah I know should be.
00:24:49.800 --> 00:24:50.730
Ellen Greenberg: should be proud of you.
00:24:52.980 --> 00:25:10.230
Ellen Greenberg: Now it's really interesting that you know, I understand your grandmother had her diaries okay let's let's say that she had them with her, the fact that your grandmother had letters that she had written to her family any idea how she got possession of those letters.
00:25:10.590 --> 00:25:14.820
Rachael Cerrotti: When the greatest question i'll never be able to answer them, so I mean I have, I have theories.
00:25:14.880 --> 00:25:26.400
Rachael Cerrotti: But a aren't live so for anyone who's not familiar with this, the timeline here is that in 2009 2010 I was doing the storytelling sessions, with my grandmother and then she passed away.
00:25:26.730 --> 00:25:33.690
Rachael Cerrotti: In October 2010 and I was going into my senior year of college, where I was in my second year college at that point and.
00:25:34.380 --> 00:25:43.830
Rachael Cerrotti: Over the years that followed, as I got more deep 1400 story just kept you know, as you know, we're cleaning our apartment and all the things you do when when someone you love passes away.
00:25:45.300 --> 00:25:54.120
Rachael Cerrotti: She just left behind this incredible like oh my gosh it's just incredible he said diaries and letters and papers and and you know diaries for lunches 14 and then.
00:25:54.450 --> 00:25:56.790
Rachael Cerrotti: died when she was in her 70s, where you know we.
00:25:56.880 --> 00:26:01.320
Rachael Cerrotti: mentioned earlier that we telling us different even to yourself, you know we all do, that for ourselves.
00:26:03.030 --> 00:26:13.200
Rachael Cerrotti: And so, amongst this treasure treasure trove for these letters that she sent to her parents during the war from Denmark and then her parents sent back to her and that my mom.
00:26:14.460 --> 00:26:30.660
Rachael Cerrotti: I eventually got translated and the might my best educated guess is that she kept hers from France and that perhaps when she went back to Prague after the war was over to see who and what was left.
00:26:31.410 --> 00:26:37.320
Rachael Cerrotti: There were enough distant family members, you know distant relatives a few here and a few there that.
00:26:37.680 --> 00:26:48.150
Rachael Cerrotti: They were left in someone's home and she was able to retrieve them and I have to believe that's how she got the photo albums as well, but it's one of those things that I just didn't know this.
00:26:49.140 --> 00:27:04.020
Rachael Cerrotti: existed until she passed away so and I also don't know if I would have at that young of an age really had like the foresight to sit down and look at it and say, you know how did you get all this stuff like I was very I was very much in my own world and not in her world at that point.
00:27:04.680 --> 00:27:14.040
Ellen Greenberg: yeah you know I think that's that's common we all have you know when you when you taste something for granted, I have my my grandmother's yellow star.
00:27:14.400 --> 00:27:24.900
Ellen Greenberg: Well, my grandmother was hiding in somebody's House why how did, how did I get a yellow stars, you know so all those kinds of questions the technical question we don't know and doesn't matter.
00:27:25.350 --> 00:27:34.230
Ellen Greenberg: But aside from that if you had to ask your grandmother a question, are you you you've read her intimate secrets, and all that what would you want to ask her.
00:27:35.550 --> 00:27:44.430
Rachael Cerrotti: Well, I posed this in both the podcast and the book is that i'd be really curious to talk to her about how often she lied about her past.
00:27:44.850 --> 00:27:55.470
Rachael Cerrotti: because she has this really beautiful line in this letter that she writes when she's you know gets to America, she immigrated to America in 1950 and she's crossing the country by train and there's a whole story there.
00:27:56.730 --> 00:28:05.130
Rachael Cerrotti: And she writes this letter from San Francisco back to a friend in Cincinnati and she's telling her about this whole train trip across the country, and she says that she met.
00:28:05.790 --> 00:28:20.580
Rachael Cerrotti: A nice gentleman in one of the cars of the train and he asked where she was going, and she lied and said that she was going to be family on the west coast and she said she thought it be quite odd if she told him the truth, and that is always just sat with me.
00:28:21.720 --> 00:28:25.410
Rachael Cerrotti: And particularly as i've gone through certain you know tragedies in my own life.
00:28:26.160 --> 00:28:33.900
Rachael Cerrotti: You know wondering how often did she just not tell the truth, you know how often did she feel compelled to give.
00:28:34.260 --> 00:28:45.930
Rachael Cerrotti: This very light version of her life in order to protect other people and so that's that's a question that I just I don't think i'll ever stop being curious about, and also how did that feel you know, was that.
00:28:46.380 --> 00:28:54.930
Rachael Cerrotti: Was that okay did that did that feel right or did it create a burden to not be able to just be honest with WHO she was and where she was coming from and where she was going.
00:28:55.230 --> 00:29:09.600
Ellen Greenberg: Well, maybe, she was just able to discern and and read the audience some some time you know she she spoke to students sometimes it's okay to say and sometimes you know oftentimes when people say how are you they don't really want to hear your whole saga, how you are.
00:29:09.870 --> 00:29:14.100
Ellen Greenberg: So you know, maybe it was the same thing, she just was easy to play it light i'm going.
00:29:14.130 --> 00:29:15.420
Ellen Greenberg: You know, rather than.
00:29:16.140 --> 00:29:17.550
Rachael Cerrotti: And we all, and we all do that.
00:29:17.610 --> 00:29:18.000
Rachael Cerrotti: Right.
00:29:18.150 --> 00:29:31.890
Rachael Cerrotti: We all, you know we we tell ourselves the stories that we need to hear and we tell other people, the stories that we feel you know capable of telling in that moment, and sometimes you tell some stranger your whole life story and sometimes it's a one word answer so.
00:29:32.250 --> 00:29:35.190
Rachael Cerrotti: I just like to explore that that topic right.
00:29:36.420 --> 00:29:49.140
Ellen Greenberg: Okay, and there you know there's this whole journey it's the intersection of you grandmother's journey and then you know, during this period between when you were 20 and.
00:29:49.980 --> 00:29:59.580
Ellen Greenberg: 32, I believe, for now, you know you've been on your own journey and there's sort of this intersection of you learning and pulling from your grandmother's experience.
00:30:01.290 --> 00:30:11.340
Ellen Greenberg: In many ways it brings her alive, because she's she's there kind of with you, so what are some of the things that that you learn from her that helped you, through your times.
00:30:11.610 --> 00:30:21.060
Rachael Cerrotti: yeah so a big part, so I say the story kind of has a before and after in terms of in 2016 my husband passed away and that was a.
00:30:22.560 --> 00:30:24.990
Rachael Cerrotti: Very you know how to say.
00:30:25.080 --> 00:30:28.410
Rachael Cerrotti: It I mean you know what you want to choose right.
00:30:29.820 --> 00:30:46.380
Rachael Cerrotti: And my husband, I had met his name is Sergio and I met him in Israel we're study abroad students together, he was from Poland and so he was a really big part of my ability to be in Europe, and not just from a logistical point of view, but also from an emotional point of view.
00:30:47.430 --> 00:30:57.390
Rachael Cerrotti: And he had his own family history, so he brought a lot of perspective, as somebody who wasn't Jewish whose family also suffered during World War Two and also with somebody and the European was very interested in it so.
00:30:58.800 --> 00:31:08.070
Rachael Cerrotti: I would say, like it returned to me this European identity becoming a part of his family that really you know, had had an impact on the way that I understood my grandmother's story.
00:31:08.670 --> 00:31:15.750
Rachael Cerrotti: And then, when he passed away, you know I had already been immersed in my grandmother story for seven years or so, at that point.
00:31:16.200 --> 00:31:25.890
Rachael Cerrotti: And it was like this awakening that I didn't understand it at all, so you know I thought I was kind of done by the time he was going to immigrate to America and we got married and.
00:31:26.250 --> 00:31:36.150
Rachael Cerrotti: You know, I was like you know very nice it was like going to travel for a year and then write a book, you know and we're coming up on the five year yard side of his death now and the book has just come out.
00:31:37.230 --> 00:31:39.660
Rachael Cerrotti: With the book entirely change the story changed like.
00:31:40.260 --> 00:31:56.430
Rachael Cerrotti: completely changed in the sense that I started rereading my grandmother's diaries I started retracing our steps, again I returned to all these people that I had met along the way right this new perspective, but also this i'm starting to see.
00:31:57.750 --> 00:32:02.910
Rachael Cerrotti: I was starting to understand her words in a way, like I could see the grief differently, because I just hadn't.
00:32:03.540 --> 00:32:15.690
Rachael Cerrotti: Experienced yeah and I didn't know how to touch it and then that wasn't me being a good or bad journalist that was just me not having that ability to see it at that point on, and rabbi bent melky or would always talk about how.
00:32:16.170 --> 00:32:29.100
Rachael Cerrotti: You know our senses are limited, and so we can only you know see a certain distance and we can only hear, to a certain sound and we would talk about that, in the sense of grief to like you can only understand so much when you understand it.
00:32:29.700 --> 00:32:35.190
Rachael Cerrotti: And so, in that sense, my grandmother story became like this lifeline for me and.
00:32:35.760 --> 00:32:42.570
Rachael Cerrotti: Now the way I see your story is like her story is such a lesson and how to be empowered by your grief my grandmother I know her as being.
00:32:42.840 --> 00:32:51.480
Rachael Cerrotti: The liveliest most alive human I mean she always said she won like you know she had like think gift of life and she really live that and as a.
00:32:51.900 --> 00:33:02.010
Rachael Cerrotti: grandchild she was like hilarious and just energetic and done this, and she dyed her hair green for my bar mitzvah and always would make us laugh, and you just was such a character.
00:33:02.610 --> 00:33:08.850
Rachael Cerrotti: And then to start to be able to see the grief, which can years after I started digging into the history.
00:33:09.810 --> 00:33:26.370
Rachael Cerrotti: Really layered on something different, and it also you know so that was my personal what was happening in my personal life that really impacted how I both on how I tell the story, but then you also around that time around 2015, you have the refugee crisis breaking out and you have.
00:33:27.450 --> 00:33:38.640
Rachael Cerrotti: You know, thousands and thousands of refugees and migrants flooding Scandinavia and so you're seeing a lot of these conversations happen again you're seeing young people crossing to safety by boat.
00:33:39.030 --> 00:33:49.650
Rachael Cerrotti: And that became a really big interest of mine and I started doing a lot of reporting with young people in Scandinavia, who are seeking refuge and so that also was I was seeing that through the lens of my grandmother story.
00:33:49.830 --> 00:34:00.120
Ellen Greenberg: So you're back in Scandinavia, I believe, even in the House where your grandmother had stayed with refugees it's sort of full circle again.
00:34:00.660 --> 00:34:07.830
Rachael Cerrotti: yeah and I always said that, I think, in the early years of this project, I really saw it as being like history is being this very linear thing you know the.
00:34:08.760 --> 00:34:20.310
Rachael Cerrotti: feeling of being on the train crossing from you know, going from Prague through Germany to Denmark by boat, because I was very intentional about traveling the same way, my grandmother did, and you know doing retracing.
00:34:20.610 --> 00:34:25.680
Rachael Cerrotti: And you know thinking oh nobody's checking my passport, nobody cares who I am nobody you know.
00:34:25.860 --> 00:34:35.580
Rachael Cerrotti: And then, even after the refugee crisis breaks out passport checks become a thing, but nobody really cares of who I am and you know, so you start to see.
00:34:36.000 --> 00:34:49.800
Rachael Cerrotti: Our present day, through the lens of the past and when certain things feel different, and you know you have to confront them really differently, and so my grandmother's story really became a vehicle for understanding what was happening in our world today.
00:34:50.370 --> 00:35:01.710
Ellen Greenberg: Right in in your personal world in your life and and also in the world, I guess, when you spend enough time on a project there's enough different cycles.
00:35:02.760 --> 00:35:03.090
Ellen Greenberg: cycle.
00:35:03.120 --> 00:35:08.520
Ellen Greenberg: Yes, yeah there's a part i'd like you to read from from the park and.
00:35:09.570 --> 00:35:24.360
Ellen Greenberg: You traveled many times to all these different countries and and across the US and, as you said, very meticulous the same train the same same place to really recreate as best you you, you could your grandmother's experience.
00:35:26.010 --> 00:35:43.890
Ellen Greenberg: there's a part where you're you're we start off in the book, as we said before that you and your mom or back in where your grandmother has lived in Prague and you find it really great neat that Julia mother's hesitant and now let's go to the point where you're back in Prague.
00:35:44.670 --> 00:35:54.630
Rachael Cerrotti: yeah so so this part that i'm about to read is from the think this is around November 2014 and so i'm in.
00:35:55.590 --> 00:36:07.140
Rachael Cerrotti: September 2014 I relocated to Europe so i'm out with my mom here i'm spending five weeks living in Prague in a woman's home was part of the Jewish community, who is my age and she let me live in her spare bedroom and I was.
00:36:08.760 --> 00:36:14.430
Rachael Cerrotti: Essentially, just trying to understand Prague from my grandmother's point of view so.
00:36:16.680 --> 00:36:27.240
Rachael Cerrotti: I felt like an intruder in Prague Hitler envisioned the city as a museum to the Jewish people a place dedicated to what he had destroyed or in his eyes what he had built.
00:36:27.870 --> 00:36:35.520
Rachael Cerrotti: on Sundays, I felt like he had succeeded, while there, I was hosted by a young woman who was kind enough to let me live in her spare bedroom.
00:36:35.970 --> 00:36:45.810
Rachael Cerrotti: She was one of the few of my generation who is active in the Czech Jewish community, I never felt comfortable in her apartment but then again, I never felt comfortable in the country.
00:36:46.350 --> 00:36:56.100
Rachael Cerrotti: These were the days when no one asked who I was where I was going or, where I was coming from this was the place where grief and ghosts took me by the hand.
00:36:57.120 --> 00:37:01.470
Rachael Cerrotti: And night I would sit on a week wooden chair and Edit whatever pictures i've taken that day.
00:37:01.920 --> 00:37:11.190
Rachael Cerrotti: I had a twin bed that was more like a Cot squeeze next to a black wooden desk my pillow was small but functional its case printed with classic pink roses.
00:37:11.880 --> 00:37:17.850
Rachael Cerrotti: I stopped my Clean Clothes on a piano in the corner of the room and kept the rest of my belongings hidden in my backpack.
00:37:18.540 --> 00:37:27.570
Rachael Cerrotti: dusty books line the shelves, they were old but help modern ideas for their time the rooms window was partially covered by a shower curtain.
00:37:28.260 --> 00:37:39.330
Rachael Cerrotti: And the panels of naked glass showed my bare reflection, every time I changed my clothes I fell asleep to the sounds of the former Czechoslovakia playing a melody outside.
00:37:39.870 --> 00:37:45.330
Rachael Cerrotti: The country so chaos in my subconscious my dream scarred me with their stories.
00:37:45.870 --> 00:37:55.170
Rachael Cerrotti: In one dream I was back in Boston my friends were too busy to care that I come back they literally looked right through me as if I were a ghost in my own home.
00:37:55.710 --> 00:38:05.580
Rachael Cerrotti: The only one you recognize me was my sweet dog nestled her head into my chest and took my finger into her mouth like a teething child seeking the security of its mother.
00:38:06.390 --> 00:38:18.510
Rachael Cerrotti: I often woke up with a jolt my skin sweaty I would turn to the right and face the wall, then, to the left and stare at my backpack I would touch one foot with the other and tell myself that I was okay.
00:38:19.680 --> 00:38:27.540
Rachael Cerrotti: The nightmares got progressively worse as my time in Prague went on, I remember one night I woke up certain that the building was on fire.
00:38:27.930 --> 00:38:40.320
Rachael Cerrotti: I ripped the blanket off germany's to my chest and rock back and forth, like the men, I have seen in prayer at the synagogue the previous week I took one breath after another until the sun rose and a broke.
00:38:41.460 --> 00:38:47.700
Rachael Cerrotti: During the days I learned to fear the city, more and more Prague stopped being new and exciting.
00:38:48.150 --> 00:38:57.180
Rachael Cerrotti: I stopped feeling curious about what people were saying and check and began to feel more sensitive nearly angry when I heard people speaking in English.
00:38:57.570 --> 00:39:10.650
Rachael Cerrotti: And didn't want to hear their thoughts I resented the conversations they had with friends over coffee and cake, as I sat alone nearby staring at my computer reading and rereading my grandmother's words.
00:39:11.850 --> 00:39:22.560
Rachael Cerrotti: I had such a creepy feeling and I really, really didn't want to stay she had said about being back in Prague, but I had nobody in delmar I had nobody in Sweden.
00:39:24.000 --> 00:39:24.240
00:39:25.650 --> 00:39:30.690
Ellen Greenberg: it's really i'm a shift there in how you felt in many other places.
00:39:31.710 --> 00:39:38.580
Rachael Cerrotti: yeah it is it's I have a very complicated relationship with Prague, for this reason.
00:39:40.110 --> 00:39:47.640
Rachael Cerrotti: You know, like I said when we started chatting I in Denmark and Sweden, but particularly in Denmark there's just so much life.
00:39:48.300 --> 00:40:00.780
Rachael Cerrotti: They are of this story and in Prague born in Czech Republic, you know my I find my family's names on all the walls of the deceased and there's not this type of.
00:40:01.680 --> 00:40:12.330
Rachael Cerrotti: Energy to remember the past in Denmark there's this energy to remember the past there's there's this pride in doing the right thing, and that is not something I fell in progress, so this is complicated for me yeah.
00:40:12.720 --> 00:40:21.270
Ellen Greenberg: I mean sure when when there's good things to remember and noble things that people want to remember that.
00:40:22.500 --> 00:40:30.060
Ellen Greenberg: And you know Prague was the beginning of the darkness when you know when you remember, they had to leave.
00:40:30.510 --> 00:40:36.150
Rachael Cerrotti: yeah and you know just for my own mental health, it was is it's gentler to sit with the more uplifting story.
00:40:36.180 --> 00:40:37.050
Rachael Cerrotti: joy like.
00:40:37.440 --> 00:40:37.800
Rachael Cerrotti: You know.
00:40:38.010 --> 00:40:44.820
Rachael Cerrotti: It feels better right it's really hard to work on the really you know.
00:40:44.910 --> 00:40:47.160
Rachael Cerrotti: Painful nearly unbelievable.
00:40:47.460 --> 00:41:01.680
Rachael Cerrotti: stories that existed all through Europe right and so we're you know we're drawn to the things that make us feel better so that's why perhaps for my grandmother as well that's maybe that's why we spend so much time, focusing on the moments of life.
00:41:02.220 --> 00:41:20.010
Ellen Greenberg: Right mom is a lie, which is how you describe that she she lived her life that you know with the Green hair and the end the playing around and that she was she was light and airy not dark dark and heavy so i'm going to turn to some questions we have and pick out some some questions.
00:41:21.840 --> 00:41:22.860
Ellen Greenberg: Combining a few.
00:41:24.000 --> 00:41:42.750
Ellen Greenberg: Can you discuss the check rescue network that your grandmother was a part of and which sinus was group was that a part of was it the the bundles so was it religion, religious or secular and also the host families how were they chosen.
00:41:43.440 --> 00:41:51.270
Rachael Cerrotti: yeah so my grandmother's part of the pilot team, so it was it was more of like a secular cultural group very religious.
00:41:52.020 --> 00:42:03.420
Rachael Cerrotti: That are the pioneers that we're going out there and the the organization that helped them get to Denmark was the women's International League for peace and freedom, so it was a women's organization and so a lot of the families.
00:42:04.050 --> 00:42:15.390
Rachael Cerrotti: That were all in the countryside, who took in these kids were all you know these women's wear these women were participants of this organization which I also love that this story is just completely driven by.
00:42:15.930 --> 00:42:22.230
Rachael Cerrotti: Powerful women doing the right thing, so that's certainly something that I, I really love about the story as well right.
00:42:25.500 --> 00:42:26.580
Ellen Greenberg: I believe this is can.
00:42:27.780 --> 00:42:37.860
Ellen Greenberg: Are you able or do you want to move on from this story now the book has been published, are you going to do more work on this, or do you have any other projects in line.
00:42:38.310 --> 00:42:49.080
Rachael Cerrotti: yeah so I don't know if i'm ever going to get away from this story totally I will say it feels very good that the book is done because they're you know, particularly because it's like a weaving of past and present there really is no.
00:42:49.710 --> 00:42:58.500
Rachael Cerrotti: time when the story is over, and I think a lot of documentarians who work on long projects feel this way, but you know I started this project as a photojournalist.
00:42:59.370 --> 00:43:03.270
Rachael Cerrotti: You know somewhere in between, I became a podcast or made a podcast about this.
00:43:03.840 --> 00:43:16.980
Rachael Cerrotti: Now the book and you know I always joke, now that probably the last thing i'll do with this project is some visual type of storytelling you know whether that's thinking about a movie or photo book or I don't you know I don't know I got I got ideas percolating as every creative does.
00:43:18.030 --> 00:43:26.610
Rachael Cerrotti: But I have, I have the pleasure now of working with Shoah foundation, as their storytelling and residents, so I get to work with other people's family stories every single day.
00:43:26.970 --> 00:43:37.920
Rachael Cerrotti: From the visual history archive show foundation, and right now, I have a podcast I co host with Stephen Smith, is the Executive Director of the Institute that's called the memory generation.
00:43:38.310 --> 00:43:48.180
Rachael Cerrotti: That comes out once a month, and so we dig into family stories and the inheritance of memory and the way technology plays into it and just all different topics so.
00:43:48.540 --> 00:43:52.650
Rachael Cerrotti: You know, in many ways, my grandmother's story has given me this opening to work with other.
00:43:53.130 --> 00:44:03.570
Rachael Cerrotti: Family histories and I like to think that, working with other family histories helps give some context to my own and so it's this kind of beautiful web of stories that I get to engage with on a daily basis.
00:44:04.050 --> 00:44:07.950
Ellen Greenberg: Well, clearly for the rest of your life your grandmother's story and.
00:44:09.000 --> 00:44:11.280
Ellen Greenberg: Is interwoven in your life and.
00:44:12.660 --> 00:44:18.690
Rachael Cerrotti: Absolutely, and I say that you know i'm not I don't have kids and I don't have grandkids, and so I have to.
00:44:19.110 --> 00:44:25.710
Rachael Cerrotti: I have to believe that if I ever have that privilege in life that i'm going to go back to my grandmother's diaries and be like oh my God.
00:44:25.980 --> 00:44:34.140
Rachael Cerrotti: there's so much I missed or like there's this beautiful letter that she wrote to her mother on what would been her mother's hundredth birthday and it's a really.
00:44:34.650 --> 00:44:42.810
Rachael Cerrotti: beautiful but painful letter, and it was one of the first pieces of writing I ever fell in love with and it didn't make it into the book, because that wasn't.
00:44:43.230 --> 00:44:51.870
Rachael Cerrotti: Really resonant with any part of my life, and so I actually really look forward to life experiences, you know I don't want to say bad life experiences, but.
00:44:52.260 --> 00:45:04.980
Rachael Cerrotti: complicated and easy and good and all the things that where I get to go back and lean on her words in a different way she really gifted she left a gift and you know not not letting go of it right.
00:45:05.400 --> 00:45:11.730
Ellen Greenberg: Maybe at some point we'll share that letter because your grandmother last time she saw her mother was 14 right.
00:45:12.360 --> 00:45:18.240
Rachael Cerrotti: yeah yeah and she she particularly speaks beautifully about her mother around the time she's giving birth.
00:45:19.380 --> 00:45:27.480
Rachael Cerrotti: And as she's becoming a grandmother and thinking and reflecting about how her mother never had that and so you know i'm very aware that that's something that I can't.
00:45:28.260 --> 00:45:31.830
Rachael Cerrotti: I can't resonate with right now, whereas other cousins of mine, you know.
00:45:32.130 --> 00:45:41.520
Rachael Cerrotti: One of my cousins who's a few years older than me who has a child, you know when she was reading the early part of the book that you know tells the story of the separation between my grandmother.
00:45:42.120 --> 00:45:50.550
Rachael Cerrotti: and her mother, you know she was able to resonate with that or feel that, in a way that I just I can't at this moment I can get it intellectually, but I can't.
00:45:51.000 --> 00:45:59.880
Ellen Greenberg: Right there's something about having to experience that that that that yourself yeah I go on my mother, saying that you know.
00:46:00.240 --> 00:46:11.220
Ellen Greenberg: my grandmother saying, can you imagine what it was like you know, giving your children to strangers, and no I couldn't imagine it until I till till I had children so that's why it'll always sort of.
00:46:12.450 --> 00:46:14.760
Ellen Greenberg: be a part of you um.
00:46:15.990 --> 00:46:24.330
Ellen Greenberg: We think the book is great somebody would like to know what kind of response, have you gotten from from people about the book and the podcast.
00:46:25.230 --> 00:46:26.310
Rachael Cerrotti: So far, so good.
00:46:28.770 --> 00:46:33.180
Rachael Cerrotti: yeah no, I mean the podcast came out two years ago it's also titled we share the same sky.
00:46:34.380 --> 00:46:44.040
Rachael Cerrotti: And that was really special to put out because, for all these years i've been doing this work and I, you know, no one really understood, I was doing like even my own family, like it's a really bold statement to be like i'm going to.
00:46:45.300 --> 00:46:47.160
Rachael Cerrotti: My apartment pack a backpack.
00:46:47.280 --> 00:46:58.440
Rachael Cerrotti: Take all my camera gear and like go retrace my grandmother story and lame already created but retrace it and, like you know people it's I didn't really know what I was doing you know until it kind of happened.
00:46:59.790 --> 00:47:04.770
Rachael Cerrotti: And so the podcast coming out was kind of like this exhale of like see it was doing this.
00:47:04.920 --> 00:47:07.170
Ellen Greenberg: sort of validation that you weren't doing something.
00:47:07.440 --> 00:47:17.670
Rachael Cerrotti: yeah and also, I was building on these beautiful relationships with all these people intersected you know with my history, whether they knew my grandmother, or you know, one of their ancestors knew my grandmother.
00:47:18.360 --> 00:47:33.210
Rachael Cerrotti: And it was really nice of you to introduce those people, you know to everybody else in my life, so to speak, and so the book certainly has that in the book is like a much deeper dive into the story it's a much more complicated much more you know extended version of it.
00:47:34.410 --> 00:47:41.340
Rachael Cerrotti: Like I said earlier, my family has been my scariest critic, particularly my cousins because you know i'm writing this as a grandchild so there's only.
00:47:41.730 --> 00:47:50.460
Rachael Cerrotti: six other humans in this world who knew my grandmother has a grandmother growing up and so their opinions have been kind of the scariest to receive the bed.
00:47:50.910 --> 00:48:03.750
Rachael Cerrotti: All it's been beautiful and it's been wonderful because they've been telling me memories that I didn't know and so it's kind of it's like she's here with us and so that's been wonderful and so yeah all all positive I mean.
00:48:03.810 --> 00:48:08.070
Rachael Cerrotti: racing around for three weeks so hopefully more good to come.
00:48:08.790 --> 00:48:15.060
Ellen Greenberg: um let's talk about the title we share the same sky who's the we and and how did you come up with the title.
00:48:15.600 --> 00:48:34.320
Rachael Cerrotti: yeah so that mean the way is all of us right and not not to be too much about it, but it really is, and the title is actually thanks to my mother in law, Sergio manzanita in Poland who i'm still incredibly close with to this day and.
00:48:35.400 --> 00:48:48.600
Rachael Cerrotti: About three months after my husband passed away, I was in Poland was around around Christmas time and it was like two in the morning and we were up talking late into the night and and sharing stories and she was telling me that.
00:48:50.370 --> 00:49:00.210
Rachael Cerrotti: You know my Sergio my husband was like he was super international likely man Israel he studied in London, like he was going to emigrate and be with me in America and so and.
00:49:00.810 --> 00:49:13.830
Rachael Cerrotti: She said to me that, every time he went abroad, you know she would sell him, you know it's Okay, because we share the same Sky and the story is a little bit longer than that and there's a version of it in the podcast on version of it in the book.
00:49:14.910 --> 00:49:21.060
Rachael Cerrotti: But yeah as soon as she said, those those five words to me I just kept the project was kind of going by a different name at the time and.
00:49:21.510 --> 00:49:28.800
Rachael Cerrotti: As soon as she said, those five words to me, I was like that's it and, like, I was like that's that's you know that's the name of the book and.
00:49:29.310 --> 00:49:38.760
Rachael Cerrotti: Then the podcast came into existence and listening to the podcast and and yeah and it's it's become more than just a title for all of us it's become really this kind of.
00:49:39.690 --> 00:49:48.210
Rachael Cerrotti: This these words to live by and i'd say, particularly in this time of the pandemic, you know I haven't seen them now and going on two years and a lot of.
00:49:49.530 --> 00:49:56.160
Rachael Cerrotti: stuff has happened good and bad in that time, and you know oftentimes we repeat to each other it's Okay, we share the same sky and it's this thing to.
00:49:56.910 --> 00:49:58.170
Ellen Greenberg: To strengthen.
00:49:58.260 --> 00:50:05.910
Rachael Cerrotti: yeah yeah yeah it's strengthened words and so that that's the title is thanks to thanks to donnie to sheller you to.
00:50:05.970 --> 00:50:13.710
Ellen Greenberg: destroy it also keep studying connected with you, you as well, so it's not just you and your grandmother sharing it in embracing it.
00:50:14.340 --> 00:50:22.950
Rachael Cerrotti: yeah yeah and I, you know I mean this is fiction in my head, but I love to you know I like to believe that hannah's parents my grandmother's parents were saying.
00:50:23.340 --> 00:50:30.510
Rachael Cerrotti: Similar words to her, whether they were out loud or in their head, so I just, you know as well as all the people who are you know, trying to get.
00:50:31.110 --> 00:50:38.250
Rachael Cerrotti: To their loved ones, today you are separated from loved ones, whether it be you know more, whether whatever the crisis is you know something to hold on to.
00:50:38.760 --> 00:50:42.780
Ellen Greenberg: yeah it certainly is a enough going on in the world.
00:50:43.800 --> 00:50:56.100
Ellen Greenberg: And certainly recent news, you know, Afghanistan, you know you always come back to to your book when you when you hear the news I imagine it's very much part of your life.
00:50:57.180 --> 00:51:01.890
Rachael Cerrotti: Absolutely and i'll say that actually in the book there's a small section about these.
00:51:02.970 --> 00:51:12.090
Rachael Cerrotti: two boys who I was doing some documentary worth work with in Sweden, after the refugee crisis, I mean howdy MIT who came over when they were 11 years old, on their own.
00:51:12.720 --> 00:51:18.990
Rachael Cerrotti: Sweden and I tell kind of the story of the relationship between them and the woman who was taking care of them so almost like this paralleling.
00:51:19.290 --> 00:51:26.790
Rachael Cerrotti: In some sense or this connection in some sense to my grandmother being taken in you know what is by these people in Denmark and.
00:51:27.570 --> 00:51:37.320
Rachael Cerrotti: i'm not gonna go into their whole story, but something that's really beautiful about is that they were originally if Danny and then they came through Iran and up to Sweden with the migrant all the migrants and.
00:51:38.310 --> 00:51:43.950
Rachael Cerrotti: They hadn't seen their father and years, they were separated at the Afghan border when their family was escaping.
00:51:44.310 --> 00:51:52.230
Rachael Cerrotti: And after I think it's like close to 10 years they just found the father and they just saw again, for the first time, and so you know it's like.
00:51:53.100 --> 00:51:57.420
Rachael Cerrotti: In theory that has nothing to do with my grandmother story, but by being interested in America.
00:51:57.720 --> 00:52:08.550
Rachael Cerrotti: story I got to meet these young people and I got to be a part of their lives and I got to photograph them for a couple of years, and so you know I like to think the title kind of binds us all in some way.
00:52:08.760 --> 00:52:11.880
Ellen Greenberg: It does, and you know the interesting thing is that.
00:52:12.900 --> 00:52:18.480
Ellen Greenberg: Your grandmother had connections with these people who were generation older than her and her generation.
00:52:18.900 --> 00:52:31.800
Ellen Greenberg: And you had connections with that generation, and now the generation after that, and you internationally, this is a whole incredible connection, that is a very much big part of this book.
00:52:32.160 --> 00:52:35.610
Rachael Cerrotti: yeah absolutely and it, yes, the building of relationships and you know i've.
00:52:36.090 --> 00:52:46.230
Rachael Cerrotti: You know I love that the the children of the farm family that I moved in with in Denmark, who is the you know own farm is owned by the granddaughter of my grandmother's foster mother from World War Two and.
00:52:46.860 --> 00:52:56.190
Rachael Cerrotti: You know these kids are the great grandchildren of this woman who took my grandmother and I got to go with them to school and you know talk to you know talk to their class and it's like through just through our friendship.
00:52:56.670 --> 00:53:04.470
Rachael Cerrotti: Friendship like this history is just present and that's been really that's been a total gift that I did not anticipate going into this work at all.
00:53:04.920 --> 00:53:09.060
Ellen Greenberg: Right, you know it's hard to understand that kind of connection little.
00:53:09.720 --> 00:53:17.250
Ellen Greenberg: Unless you've been through it, I recently somebody contacted me and his father was sending online, you know.
00:53:17.550 --> 00:53:32.520
Ellen Greenberg: A little bit behind my father at Auschwitz when they got numbered and you read an article I wrote and I don't know him, but I do now there's just this this great connection that our fathers were online in the same point in history, from a transport and.
00:53:34.560 --> 00:53:39.240
Ellen Greenberg: I just had that one connection, you have you have this whole world out there it's.
00:53:39.450 --> 00:53:42.840
Rachael Cerrotti: I like to think that these connections keep coming once you open yourself up to them.
00:53:42.840 --> 00:53:43.590
Ellen Greenberg: Absolutely.
00:53:43.860 --> 00:53:50.070
Rachael Cerrotti: I think that's the beauty of you know why do we retell history over and over, why do we tell these stories, I mean since the.
00:53:50.370 --> 00:53:57.240
Rachael Cerrotti: You know, you asked earlier about the the feedback from the podcast in the book, you know, one of the greatest gift i've gotten is that.
00:53:57.630 --> 00:54:01.530
Rachael Cerrotti: I get people who write me all the time and tell me their stories or you know i'll be out.
00:54:01.920 --> 00:54:10.560
Rachael Cerrotti: At like you know I don't know a bar and friends house wherever and somebody asked me what I do, and you know it's like i'll tiptoe into it and, eventually, you know once I tell people what I do.
00:54:10.860 --> 00:54:22.380
Rachael Cerrotti: You know, everybody wants to talk about their family, history and and it's a really beautiful thing, particularly because before the podcast came out, I have to say, this was like an incredibly lonely.
00:54:23.160 --> 00:54:33.750
Rachael Cerrotti: project to work on, I mean, yes, it is now it's really nice, because the story is known, and I can have conversations with you and with other individuals who feel connected and if the sense of community.
00:54:33.840 --> 00:54:43.620
Rachael Cerrotti: Right um but, but this this sport can be really lonely and so it's just really nice when everyone starts talking about where they come from you're going to share them.
00:54:44.010 --> 00:54:56.520
Ellen Greenberg: Right, and you know, especially this point in our lives when you know you know we went through the code quarantine and you know life isn't still fully back to normal to have connections with people.
00:54:57.270 --> 00:55:08.880
Ellen Greenberg: You know, even if you don't see them, it is simply being connected people's important, and I think that's a big part of your your grandmother story that she had these connections.
00:55:10.050 --> 00:55:19.590
Ellen Greenberg: And she did not dwell on where she could have the hardest that that she went through she focused in taught you about the joy of living.
00:55:20.190 --> 00:55:32.190
Rachael Cerrotti: yeah I will, and I will say that you know she certainly had she carried all of the heaviness she she didn't I don't think she burdened us with it, but the beginning of the book actually starts with.
00:55:33.600 --> 00:55:41.940
Rachael Cerrotti: Her survivor's guilt and how that manifested at a certain part of her life and in a really scary wakes it started coming out when I was around 13 so.
00:55:42.480 --> 00:55:45.510
Rachael Cerrotti: You know I don't think I understood what it was then, but as an adult.
00:55:45.930 --> 00:55:54.360
Rachael Cerrotti: Thinking about what she was going through now understanding, I mean I didn't understand what the Holocaust was at 13, even if I knew what it was and understand what it was and.
00:55:55.290 --> 00:56:02.820
Rachael Cerrotti: You know I think that's also something very interesting about her is that it's very clear from her writings it's very clear from this like.
00:56:03.180 --> 00:56:12.030
Rachael Cerrotti: You know obsessiveness i've had with her story in the past 12 years I can very much see that she carried it deeply and there's no question about that, but it wasn't something that she.
00:56:12.510 --> 00:56:27.120
Rachael Cerrotti: I would say burdened us with, and I think about that a lot more, you know more and more and more as the years go on, you know and that's why I said, like you know i'd love to ask her about what it felt to hold it because I don't I don't think I knew to ask that then.
00:56:27.600 --> 00:56:37.260
Ellen Greenberg: Of course, on and and, if I remember correctly, at of all the grandchildren, you and your brother did not leave live in close proximity to her so so.
00:56:38.280 --> 00:56:42.480
Ellen Greenberg: In addition to you, being a photojournalist you know your other cousins.
00:56:42.840 --> 00:56:56.730
Ellen Greenberg: Her other grandchildren probably saw her from time to time in this not necessarily that big and need to ask somebody the questions and sit down and tell me your life story, if you see them from time to time, you know just really sort of worked for you that.
00:56:57.780 --> 00:56:59.220
Ellen Greenberg: You were the grandchild that.
00:57:00.270 --> 00:57:01.470
Ellen Greenberg: The holder of the story.
00:57:01.920 --> 00:57:10.740
Rachael Cerrotti: yeah absolutely I know she was the babysitter for the other cousins but she actually writes in her diaries that like visiting me and my brother was like was like tourism.
00:57:11.190 --> 00:57:17.220
Rachael Cerrotti: And so you know, I think, maybe that maybe that's why, when we sat down to for her to tell me her story it felt like traveling.
00:57:17.760 --> 00:57:28.200
Rachael Cerrotti: You know that was and she loved to travel and she knew I love to travel and you know she talked to me in a way that I knew how to listen, you know she talked to me and where I was at, and when I was 20 years old and curious.
00:57:28.560 --> 00:57:33.660
Rachael Cerrotti: I was, I had the travel bug I just I didn't want to be in school, and I wanted to be all over the world of my camera.
00:57:33.960 --> 00:57:34.260
Ellen Greenberg: and
00:57:34.410 --> 00:57:36.060
Rachael Cerrotti: How to get my attention and so.
00:57:37.230 --> 00:57:38.940
Rachael Cerrotti: that's why I say she's a gifted storyteller.
00:57:39.510 --> 00:57:45.450
Ellen Greenberg: And and and very insightful yes very, very insightful absolutely and that.
00:57:45.450 --> 00:57:49.080
Rachael Cerrotti: I like to think that the book is as much her words as it is mine.
00:57:50.250 --> 00:58:02.790
Ellen Greenberg: yeah Well, yes, you know it is her words, your perspective on her words her impact on your life it's just really come full circle Rachel it's been a pleasure.
00:58:03.480 --> 00:58:11.700
Ellen Greenberg: talking with you we've spoken before on the phone and have a great connection and seeing you in person, so to speak.
00:58:12.120 --> 00:58:22.950
Ellen Greenberg: it's been been greatly, thank you very much for your time and I think Ari and and everyone else in the museum for all the wonderful programs that you do and for hosting Rachel tonight.
00:58:23.490 --> 00:58:28.140
Rachael Cerrotti: Thank you, Alan Thank you Thank you to everybody who came this evening really appreciate it.
00:58:29.250 --> 00:58:37.950
Ari Goldstein: So your things this is such a poignant intergenerational discussion and a beautiful tribute to your grandmother and her experience Rachel.
00:58:38.730 --> 00:58:50.310
Ari Goldstein: You can order, we share the same sky a memoir of memory and migration by Rachel sorority at the link in the zoom chat as well as explore her website to see her podcast and some of her other work.
00:58:51.000 --> 00:58:57.720
Ari Goldstein: This evening's program is part of a series of programs we host each quarter at the museum with descendants of Holocaust survivors.
00:58:58.140 --> 00:59:05.010
Ari Goldstein: run by Ellen bachner greenberg and Eva feldman, we hope, if you are a descendant Holocaust survivors will check out the group and get involved.
00:59:05.490 --> 00:59:11.160
Ari Goldstein: The link to the descendants of Holocaust survivors Facebook Group is in the zoom chat.
00:59:11.760 --> 00:59:15.270
Ari Goldstein: Everything we do with the museum is made possible through donor support as well, so.
00:59:15.540 --> 00:59:20.460
Ari Goldstein: you're moved by this evening's discussion we hope you make a contribution to the museum and continue to stay involved in our.
00:59:20.640 --> 00:59:27.180
Ari Goldstein: programs and events you're already on our email list if we're at this evenings program so stay posted tomorrow for an email from us.
00:59:27.510 --> 00:59:38.040
Ari Goldstein: With a recording of this evening's discussion and a heads up about some other things that we have on the horizon Rachel Alan Thank you so much for being here with us, thank you.
00:59:38.070 --> 00:59:39.270
Ellen Greenberg: Thank you, a pleasure.
00:59:39.750 --> 00:59:40.650
Ari Goldstein: Take care everyone.
Learn More About Rachael Cerrotti
Rachael Cerrotti spent more than a decade retracing her grandmother’s story. Explore Rachael’s website to learn more about her journey, see images of her and her grandmother, and listen to her podcast.
Get Involved with Descendants of Holocaust Survivors
Descendants of Holocaust Survivors (2G Greater New York) is a forum for children of survivors to connect with one another, share thoughts, feelings, and memories, and learn and teach the lessons of the Holocaust. The group was co-founded by Ellen Bachner Greenberg and Eva Fogelman. Become involved by joining their Facebook group and explore recent 2G interviews with Helen Epstein and Menachem Rosensaft.
Follow Another 3G Who Traced His Family’s Story
Menachem Kaiser, a writer and grandchild of Holocaust survivors living in Brooklyn, took up his grandfather’s battle to reclaim their family apartment building in Sosnowiec, Poland. The journey that ensued involved an astonishing entanglement with Nazi treasure hunters. Learn more in this recent Museum conversation between Kaiser and Stephanie Butnick.