Renate G. Justin has touched many of our lives in indescribable ways. Her memoir, What I Have to Tell, touches upon the love and loss, the hope and despair each decade confronted her with and how she fought back and took brave stands in the face of adversity–with quietude and dignity.
What I Have to Tell, forthcoming in June from Crystal Publishing, LLC. Read the Preface below.
A pair of dappled horses smoothly pulls the sled up the hill. On my lap, my little granddaughter is wrapped in a red blanket. She snuggles against me while listening to sleigh bells, the hoots of the owls, and the still, clear night. Her parents sit close to us, their happy faces outlined in the moonlight.
And then it comes: the memory of another such night, fifty or more years ago—another family in another sleigh in another country. The memory swirls ominously in my head. That family. My family. Families whose lives were disrupted by cruel violence.
The debate will never end: dare we or dare we not forget our past? Are we or are we not responsible for our history?
It is only by chance that we are born victims rather than perpetrators. An individual is fortunate if he or she has not been caught up in some fanatic episode that has resulted in death or destruction, but being spared does not mean that one possesses unusual virtue.
The human race, collectively and individually, cannot control negative impulses. We share a responsibility in humanity’s wrongdoings—past and present.
Memory is a blessing and a curse. It makes us laugh out loud and shed tears; it stabs us and causes unexpected, acute pain. So it is with these stories of my life.
Each of us has to come to terms with memories. Each has to decide how his or her life story can best contribute to the lives and futures of our children. My answer, tonight, is to shield my little granddaughter from the pain of my youth, not to burden my children at this magic moment with my memories. Sharing our joy does not deny our past. There would be time for that later.
Stories need to be told to remind us that no society is free of prejudice; it is instead a constant source of pain and violence.
These are my memories. They are not necessarily correct or accurate, but they are what I have to tell.
–Renate G. Justin, 1926-2017