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A Heroine

Translation by Yehoshua Siskin
I do not remember another occasion when I interviewed someone like the heroine who was sitting opposite me. Never before had I interviewed anyone who caused me to react so emotionally and thankfully while making me consider what I would have done in her place. Silvia Foti is an American Christian whom I recently met in Chicago. Her family came from Lithuania and she grew up with the understanding that her grandfather – Jonas Noreika – was a war hero. Lithuania is full of statues of him, schools bear his name, and memorial sites honoring him are everywhere. Silvia’s mother, before her death, asked her daughter to write a book about her grandfather, the national hero. Silvia began her research but then slowly discovered the bitter truth: the glorious general was a Nazi who was responsible for the death of 14,000 Jews.
Silvia felt deeply ashamed over what she had learned, but she could not remain silent and embarked on a mission of exposing the truth about her grandfather. She turned to the media and to the courts in an effort to destroy his statues, to change the names of educational institutions that bear his name, and to have all of Lithuania acknowledge the truth about him.
Many Lithuanians see in her a traitor but she is not deterred. She dreams of coming to Israel and of telling her story here as well. I told her that her father was not a hero, but that she is a heroine, and that it is significant that her story is told in Israel especially now, during Chanukah – a holiday about a victory of the few over the many, a holiday about a struggle against the dominant culture and its fraudulent beliefs and, finally, a holiday about light prevailing over darkness.


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