I've been thinking about why some survived and others didn't, and about how those who survived thought about their survival. Was it luck, faith, God, hope, fear? I remember asking my father about how he survived his years in the concentration camps. He said he didn't know.
Here's a poem by Wislawa Szymborska called "Could Have" that helped me think about this.
It could have happened.
It had to happen.
It happened earlier. Later.
Nearer. Farther off.
It happened, but not to you.
You were saved because you were the first.
You were saved because you were the last.
Alone. With others.
On the right. The left.
Because it was raining. Because of the shade.
Because the day was sunny.
You were in luck -- there was a forest.
You were in luck -- there were no trees.
You were in luck -- a rake, a hook, a beam, a brake,
A jamb, a turn, a quarter-inch, an instant . . .
So you're here? Still dizzy from
another dodge, close shave, reprieve?
One hole in the net and you slipped through?
I couldn't be more shocked or
how your heart pounds inside me.
This poem comes from Wislawa Szymborska's View With a Grain of Sand, trans. Stanislaw Baranczak and Clare Cavanagh (New York: Harcourt, Brace, 1996). The book is available at Amazon.