As Mia says:

“I think we should scrap Australia Day, and declare Mabo Day, a day when we can celebrate the courage and determination of individuals, and reflect on the healing and reconciliation process.”

So Phil and I went to the Sydney Jewish Museum twelve years ago, not long after it opened. That’s just the kind of wacky funsters we were.

“Wouldja look at that,” I said, pointing to a portrait in the lobby. “That’s Esther Abrams.”

“Who’s she when she’s at home?”

“Convict on the First Fleet. Transported for stealing a yard of black lace. Before they even got to Sydney she’d seduced one of the officers, George Johnston. Eventually married him, after they had eleven kids. He was the one that dragged Bligh out from under the bed in the Rum Rebellion. He was acting governor for a little while, so the colony had a Jewish thief as its first lady…”

“How’d you know all this?”

“She’s my… lessee… Esther, Blanche, Isabella, Isabella, Brenda, Robin, Rachel… she’s my great-great-great-great grandmother.”


Later we were looking at a wispy woollen blanket, woven in purple and white squares.

“This was taken from the liberation of Auschwitz on the 27th of January, 1945,” said an older woman to Phil.

He turned to her with his “Teach your grandmother to suck eggs, I have an Honours degree in modern history” expression.

“It was the blanket they wrapped around me,” said the woman gently.

We sat down and talked to her for an hour. Her name was Olga. She’d been a child in the camps. Except for one sister, she’d lost her entire family.

“How can you do this?” asked Phil. “How can you relive all of this for strangers?”

“In another generation, all the Holocaust survivors will be gone,” said Olga. “There will only be people like you, who have spoken to us. You will be the ones who will have to remember.”

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