Such deep roots you have: How Little Red Riding Hood’s tale evolved
Make a gift to support our work now, and your donation will be matched, dollar for dollar. Hana, as a young girl in Prague, is surrounded by her mother, grandmother and great grandmother. Hana is the only woman in this picture who survived World War II. Nearly a decade ago, I began a search for a family story that is most often relegated to history books — the journey of a World War II refugee.
Hana, my grandmother, was a child refugee from Prague and the only Holocaust survivor in her family. Her parents sent her away from danger at the age of 14 and unsung heroes provided her with the tools to be resilient. When she immigrated to America in , she was a woman formed by war. In , I sat on the edge of her deathbed and asked to hear her story. I was a budding journalist and most interested in how her years of statelessness trickled down into the identity of her descendants.
When she passed away a year later, I discovered a wealth of archive material and began to categorize, digitize and internalize her details, seeking to create a travel log of her displacement. Hana's parents were deported to extermination camps in Only Hana escaped; she was sent to a farm in rural Denmark.
They lived on a modest farm just outside of Naestved, Denmark, and had recently given birth to the first of five children. Sine, named after her grandmother, and her husband Torsten, along with their three children, live on a farm in Mern, Denmark, a small village about an hour from Copenhagen. Our early conversations were held against the backdrop of the refugee crisis that was beginning to take over the Danish and Swedish airwaves. And yet, here we were observing headlines eerily similar to those that forced my grandmother to flee.
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Something began to shift in that time. Later that year, I stood on the Baltic Coast in Beddingestrand, Sweden, the exact place where an illegal fishing boat carrying my grandmother arrived safely in October A self-portrait in Beddingestrand, Sweden. It is in these past few years that I have seen politics shift her survival story from a redemptive tale of post-war peace to a forewarning.
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The refugee crisis has become an increasingly dire situation. Fifty-five percent of the over 22 million refugees come from South Sudan, Afghanistan and Syria alone. There are more than 10 million stateless people who are being denied a nationality, a similar reality to what my grandmother faced for nearly 20 years of her life. These numbers have created a trend in politics reminiscent of the interwar period in Europe.
20+ Questions to Capture Grandma’s Story—#MeetMyGrandma
Both led to an increase in hate crimes. The Southern Poverty Law Center reported over reports of harassment and intimidation in the first 10 days after the election of Trump. Last week, President Trump visited Poland and affirmed its increasingly nationalistic approach to politics. It is the same home where Hana slept upon arriving to Sweden as a refugee in In our purpose-driven perspective, we found harmony and a connectedness in weaving together our family stories, a pushback against a world that once told us to fear each other.
Sine, the granddaughter of Jensine Hana's foster mother from World War II , watches the sunset from her farm with her husband, Torsten, and their children in Mern, Denmark. One month after the party, Sergiusz suddenly collapsed and died in our bedroom in Boston. Many of the stories were the usual short tales you'd hear in other children's story books.
But there were also stories that had strange twists to them.
They were similar to those like "Humpty Dumpty" or "Little Red Riding Hood," but they had different endings, plots and scenarios that strangely tied to the spiritual world. Antagonists would take on forms of demons, while protagonists would be represented through angels or gods. I rarely understood this as a child, but as I grew older, I started to grow curious.
I cared a lot about grandma and always wanted to make sure she was happy. She seemed happiest when she was around me, but I knew she was trying to hide something. I think I started to realize when she kept leaving the candles on after story time. Even as I started growing older, grandma still left the candle lit in my bedroom even when I was no longer afraid of the dark.
I even saw a candle lit in her bedroom when I once got up to get a glass of water in the middle of the night. I didn't want to question grandma for lighting the candle; I just figured maybe it reminded her of grandpa. I never knew how grandpa was as a person or what he even looked like. Grandma had no photos of him and rarely mentioned him at all. But somehow I felt as if I had seen him, but not physically. I once had a dream that I met someone—an older man who seemed friendly, yet sad as well.
I've never seen his face, for every time I got closer to him in my dream he'd vanish.
wordpress-11600-25562-61098.cloudwaysapps.com/north-korea-basketball-diplomacy.php I've told grandma about the man, but she had always told me to keep away from him. I did not understand why grandma wanted me to avoid the man. Grandma seemed to be very superstitious and avoided the discussions of spiritual encounters as I grew older. Before, she spoke of angels and spirits protecting from evil, but now she seemed to disregard it altogether.
To my surprise, I had recently found books in the attic covered in dust that spoke of witchcraft and magic. They looked older than I did, and were in poor condition. What struck me the most as odd was that some had scribbles of ink on them, other books had "witch" and "murderer" written on them. Scared and confused, I quickly slammed the book close and headed back down; but I was stopped. Grandma stood there at the door, "so, you found them didn't you? Grandma wiped her tears and began to explain: "My little princess, when I was a little girl I always heard voices in my head.
I saw people that were not alive, and I could sense tragedies before they would happen. His body became possessed of a demonic entity that damned his soul and sent him into an endless void that separates him from everyone else. That man you saw in your dreams was, in fact, your grandpa; but he may still be possessed by that demon that took him into the afterlife. That is why you must stay away.
Grandma continued, "But I must tell you that you have that power too, the same one as I. I've kept us safe from demons for years. They want to get me. They want to attack you too. Out of the corner of my eye I could see a dark silhouette gazing at grandma. Grandma began to run towards me, yelling. The silhouette began to sprint towards my grandmother as she ran to me. I quickly lit the candle, but it was too late. The figure had grabbed my grandmother's legs and pulled her away from the candle's glow.
The silhouette submerged itself into grandma's body, causing her to jerk and spasm on the floor. A dark, shadowy mist began to cover the floor, except a for a small circle that surrounded me. I heard my grandma scream in agony as I watched her limp body slowly levitate off the ground.
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I couldn't do anything but watch—paralyzed in horror as she floated there, possessed by something.