The First Oral History Interview, April 9, 2016


"Let's start at the very beginning,

a very good place to start..."

~ from "Do Re Mi," "The Sound of Music"

It almost goes without saying that it is best to start at the beginning, but sometimes the "beginning" is not clear until you are far past it - only then can you define the point that was the beginning. In the same way, starting at the beginning implies continuing on a linear path. In reality, life rarely allows us that luxury. Still, the message of "start at the beginning" is useful in so far as it encourages proper preparation. For "Baba Babee Skazala", that of course included historical research, equipment selection and much organization, but that is not what I want to focus on here. Instead, I want to consider the "visual," the images we think of when considering this period of history.

While this is over-simplifying, those visuals often fall into two categories - horrors of the Holocaust and something more along the lines of "The Sound of Music." Now, I love this classic film as much as anyone else, and my Babcia who had to flee Ukraine loves it too, but I sincerely doubt that the travel experience of most World War II displaced persons bore much resemblance to this Von Trapp family confection. In fact, with all due respect to the real Von Trapp family, I doubt their experience bore much resemblance to Julie Andrews belting out, "the hills are alive with the sound of music" mid-escape (here, some information on the "real Von Trapp family").

The real stories of "Baba Babee Skazala" are the stories of real people whose lives were torn from their linear paths where the "beginning" was "home" in Ukraine, whose beginnings were re-defined over their lives, as they moved from place to place. Those are the stories I am seeking. 

I decided to begin with an interview that would at least provide some comfort level to balance my relative inexperience. The first interview was a relative - a cousin whose level of connection I leave to genealogists. She was the wife of my grandfather's cousin, or something along those lines, and is in her nineties. I know something of her current life because I know the family. I did not know much of her past because that is not something one often discusses at the dinner table. No spoilers here, so no names, but I am very thankful to this wonderful woman for being so gracious with her time and energy, and for making the first interview of "Baba Babee Skazala" positive and constructive. I appreciate her willingness to talk about her experiences, and lay the groundwork for future interviews.

And, on another level, I am thankful to have taken time out of the hectic, frenzied lifestyle most of us have to listen to her stories and just visit. It reminded me how important it is to make time for these personal connections.

It was, after all, a good beginning.

The "Sound of Music" soundtrack (Maria: Julie Andrews) Lyrics: Let's start at the very beginning A very good place to start 

A movie about Austrians displaced by WWII who resettled in the USA, after all.