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The words on the small sheet of paper in her hand barely covered half the usable space, but they meant more to her than any gift. Over the years, she had received hundreds of these messages, scrawled and spelling mistakes, but each was cherished for the treasure it represented. Somehow, the pain she had suffered, the hurt she had experienced were diminished when her heart was touched by the magical words.

A half century had passed. Where had all the years gone? The dead were long buried, but their memory remains fresh and alive. For the moment, this and all similar papers in her possession were her only comforts. She placed it lovingly on her desk and picked up another. Tears formed, but she smiled with the enjoyment at what she read.

"They should never feel the pain we suffered during the war," she said, "but must grow up and understand who they are and what they are, and realize that we survivors are an integral part of their future. We are pages in a book. Each one is a story. Some read like fiction, because it is too unbelievable to accept what was experienced. Others are dramas that make the reader grip the pages with hope and expectations. Some have happy endings. Most do not. Each person has a beginning, a middle and an end. Yet, in that end, even though the main character survives, are they still alive?"

She laid the papers on the desk and fanned them across its surface. Most messages were in pencil, some in coloured ink. "The children will someday become books of their own," she said quietly, "but now they are unfinished manuscripts on the threshold of understanding. They are as innocent as I was until 1941 when the Germans invaded my homeland. At the age of seven, I learned a new way to live . . . a way that continues to haunt me fifty years after the war has ended. If only I could be seven again."

She closed her eyes and pointed to one message. Her eyes opened, and she read the letter, then laughed. They call me Morah Faigie. It sounds like a rank in the army, but a different kind of army, an army of knowledge. I remember during those terrible years, hearing the adults refer to a soldier as untersturmfuher, to the kapo, to the lagerkommandant or the kommandofuhrer. They held a rank-a rank that sent fear through every part of my body.

"Many people strive to attain a position of merit. It is usually the culmination of a life's ambition. Over the years, I have acquired four, each as important as the other, but some giving me more pleasure at different times. Rank that does not inflict fear-but love. When Benny asked me to be his wife, it was a moment that took away some of the ugliness in my life. Two survivors united together to plan a better future. When my children call me ema, it is like silk caressing my skin. My grandchildren call me bubby, and I see the future that Benny and I have made and I know the past is behind me, but I cannot let it be forgotten. Maybe that is why these letters are important. They call me Morah Faigie and I know in their hands goes our future, our memories and our hope. They have told me they owe me more than they can repay for the knowledge I have imparted, but that's not true, for it is I who owe them, as I owe my mother for saving my life. If it were not for my mother, I would not be here. I would never have known Benny, had children and grandchildren and feel what I do now when I read these precious words of love. They say they owe me and I reply they have repaid me a million times over, but how do I repay my mother. Some debts last a lifetime.