THE STORY OF THE SQUARE
Quilt 1, Square 18
Artist: Ron and Ora Gordon
Presented on Father’s Day, 1996, to our father, Alexander Gordon
The design of the quilt is an 8” X 8” white square sewn onto a 10” X 10” blue square.
Framing the white square are railroad tracks stitched from black thread. There are multicolored trains in each corner. The word “chai”, meaning life in Hebrew, is at the center of the square. Within the first letter of the chai, the letter “chet” in Hebrew, are the words, “In honor of our father who survived because of the Kindertransport and taught us never to forget,” as well as my name, my brother’s name, our father’s German name (Abrascha Gorbulski), his birth date (January 31, 1922) and the year he took the Kindertransport (1938). Within the letter “yuud”, the second letter of the word chai, is our father’s English name. This quilt is based on the long life and history of our father, which involved many narrow escapes, journeys through many countries and suffering that lasts to this day.
Our father has always said that he was given nine lives, for all the “lucky” ways in which he escaped death before he stepped onto the Kindertransport. Though too detailed and personal to recount here — run-ins with Gestapo upon returning to his mother’s vacant apartment in Hamburg, Germany, and the like — those moments could not have been better timed. In each instance, had one incident been altered even slightly, he might not have lived to ever step foot on the train.
Unlike the millions of Jews who could not leave their country, our father was young enough — making it by the skin of his teeth (he was 16 at the time) — to qualify for transport out of Germany to England. In England, he would be interned as a German refugee, sent to Australia on The Dunera, on which he and 2,000 men would experience starvation and other cruelties and kept in a refugee camp for more than one year. Given two choices, to become an Australian citizen or return to England and become a British soldier, he chose the less “isolated” life and fought for England against his German homeland from 1941 to 1947.
So no matter what fate awaited our father after the Kindertransport, he survived the atrocities of Germany. To remember those “lucky” moments, we wrote chai onto the patch to not only express life, but also survival.
Before my father took the Kindertransport, his older brother, Boris, received a visa to travel to Israel. Boris still lives there today with his wife, children and grandchildren. During one of our father’s visits to see his brother, in 1958, he met our mother, and six months later our parents married, moved to America and started our family. We feel that Israel is always with us in our hearts, and so the colors of the Israeli flag, blue and white, are the background colors of the patch.
The Kindertransport took children, all less than 17 years of age, away from their homelands and their families. These children never saw their mothers and fathers again. To remind us that the passengers of the Kindertransport were mere children, the frame consists of train patches in the primary colors red, yellow and blue, like the colors of a child’s palette. The black stitching, forming train tracks around the word chai, symbolizes the borders that governed the lives of all Jews; the frame symbolizes the limitations and confinement that Jews suffered during the days of the transport. The frame contains the word life; the frame preserves it and guards it in order to keep it safe, and to remind us never to forget. Together, my brother and I have learned this and more from our father, and we will never forget.
Ron and Ora Gordon