A REPORT OF A TRIP TO OUR ROOTS APRIL-MAY 1994
You may have heard of "The Walk of the Living". Each year a group of young people make a pilgrimage from various countries to the sites of various concentration camps, sites of mass killings, cemeteries and other places of historical interest such as the Warsaw and Vilna ghettos, etc. While such a pilgrimage may sound morbid, and surely it is filled with sad memories and much pathos. It also serves to fulfill many other emotions.
It is well more than fifty years since the tragic events took place. Even my generation needs constant reminding. We need to remember that it is on the graves and over the paths that others walked that we were enabled to live and prosper and carry on in their memories. If we don't honor their sacrifice, then what are we...who are we?
For the generations which follow us, the events are just stories to be read about, pictures to be looked at, movies to be seen. And how many have said that even these are too much to bear? How many have said that they can't think of seeing Schindler's List...it would be too hard. Thus the purpose of the March of the Living is to serve as a reminder, to give meaning and dimension to the words, ‘Never Again!’
In every sense, our trip served the spirit of The March of the Living. It was our March of the Living Gilinsky's. And you shall see that to be true whether one spells the name Galinsky, Gilinsky, Gilinski, or whatever mutation has evolved. It applies as well, to the family name of Gavenda, Gavendo, Gawenda which is inexorably intertwined with Galinsky.
Our trip brings to mind the story of the Space Mission which carried aboard a Priest, a Minister, and a Rabbi with the intended purpose of exposing them to the wonders of space, getting from them their perspective of earth as seen from a 'heavenly' perspective, and enabling them to spread the message of their impressions. As they alighted from the space ship they were asked their reactions. The Priest explained that he'd never felt so physically close to the Almighty, that it was truly a divine experience that would remain with him forever. The Minister was equally exultant. He proclaimed that he would have material for his sermons that would last him for years. As the orthodox Rabbi came teetering off, he protested, "My reaction? What reaction! It was Shachrit, Mincheh, Ma'ariv. Wieder1 Shachrit, Mincheh, Ma'ariv...Shachrit, Mincheh, Ma'r....". With no irreverence intended, we shared the emotions of all of them, the Priest, the Minister, and the Rabbi.
One other thought to share before I endeavor to recount our experience. There is no true rational explanation for one's interest in genealogy. No more so than one's interest in world history. Genealogy is family history. In our case it is also world history. Some are interested, and some are not. My own feelings are that the stories must be discovered while they can be, before they are lost forever. In this way they are preserved for the future for those yet to come who will want to know of their heritage. And for some it is a very personal way to pay respect and tribute to those who preceded us and paved the way to enable us to live and prosper and enjoy the benefits of their foundation building.
To personalize that thought in my own case, there was the compulsion to return to the shtetlach of my father's youth. Having enjoyed the pleasure of each others company for thirteen too short years, I felt the need to complete the circle, at least to the extent possible, by showing my love and respect in one of the only ways available to me to do so. As a kid, my father and I played a game. I'd say, "Pa, buy me an ice cream" Pa would always answer, "if you promise to take me with you on your honeymoon to Palestine, I will." It was a promise that I couldn't fulfill, but he took me back to Palushe, Ignalina, and Shvintzian (now, Svencionys). Or perhaps I took him.
We were privileged to be a group of ten travellers, all but two of whom
were related to each other; 6 Galinsky's, 1 Gavenda, 1 Galinsky step-relative
(step-grandmother was a Galinsky) and 2 who started out unrelated but we
adopted them by mutual agreement. Any experienced tour escort will tell
you that, no matter how interesting the places may be, the escort returns
from the trip talking about the people, not the places. Not so with this
group. One of the most exciting aspects of the trip was the chemistry among
the people. Not alone because we were related, and not alone because we
had a mission in common; primarily because we found each other to be exceptionally
nice people who cared about each other. It would have been an unusual trip
anyway... but this made it all the more so.
The participants were: