Kathryn Lynch

Copyright 2019 by Kathryn Lynch

Photo of Auschwitz death camp.

This is a story about hunger which is never relieved, never goes away no matter what advantages persons might achieve by the single minded pursuit of the American dream. It is a true story, a sad story, one which made me realize how lucky I was to call this country home. All of the participants in this story have now died except for the author. Let this telling honor them.

When I retired from the practice of law, I moved to a small, rather remote small city in northern California. I knew no one in that city, nor did anyone know me. After years of trying to solve the problems of others, it was a time for me to experience a quieter life.

After two months of peaceful rest, a widowed friend and I decided to explore the burbs of southern California on a long road trip. On a typical day, we drove no more than 200 miles, followed by a reasonably priced dinner and a night in a local motel. The next day we visited the village shops and parks before moving on.

So it was, that we arrived in Chino, California one late morning, checked into a motel and thought about lunch. “I have two friends who live here, a married couple”, said my companion. “Maybe they could join us for the meal.” We met up with them in the parking lot of what they described as their favorite restaurant. Both were short and carried the extra pounds of late middle age. Each spoke with heavily accented English, switching easily into Spanish as they conversed with the waitress about the order. They did not appear to be Hispanic and when our English conversation covered many topics, I concluded that they were both well educated.

Oddly, as soon as the order had been placed, all casual conversation shut down, The man began to wonder aloud about the food, complaining that it was slow to arrive. The woman echoed his complaints. Each showed signs of stress. Hands shaking, they picked up the silverware, striking the table repeatedly, as small children sometimes do before being stopped by their parents. Inquiries about the status of the food increased in volume until other customers stopped their own conversations to watch. There was little the food servers could do to speed up the process because it was noontime and the restaurant was crowded. I wondered silently how this couple could fail to see this delay as inevitable.

At last the food arrived. Our guests placed the silver back into previous positions on the table, and using their hands grabbed up large quantities of fries, shoving them in their mouths, a number of fries falling from overcrowding. Dropping their heads into the plates, the hot beef sandwiches complete with gravy, were consumed with incredible speed, much as a large dog might eat a meal. Both made growling-like intake noises as they ate, enhancing the performance viewed by a large number of persons at surrounding tables in deathly silence.

When their plates were empty, our guests reached for the food ordered by my friend and me, assuming that our open mouthed observations indicated that we were not going to eat our food. The animal noises began anew as our plates were emptied by devouring hungry mouths wolfing down every scrap that made up the orders. The meal ended when all four plates had been licked clean.

The dining area had fallen silent. I estimated that the crowd who had witnessed this display numbered about 70, As social conversation began again, the eyes of these diners never left our table, searching for an explanation. That would not be forthcoming, because as soon as they finished eating, our guests rose from the table, paid the bill, and drove out of the parking lot in a late model car.

What was that about?”, I asked my friend, as we prepared to order more food. She explained that the couple were born and spent early childhood years in different areas of Poland. Each was caught in World War II Nazi sweeps of Jewish families, ending up in concentration camps. One by one family members grew feeble and tired. One by one each disappeared into the gas chambers. Our guests matured into their teens and were put to work where they remained doing hard labor until the end of the War, when they were rescued with stunted height, frail thin, half starved, unable to stand for long periods of time, largely mute from the horrors they had seen and survived, neither with any living relatives.

American GI's took them to repatriation centers where camp residents were fed, clothed, and eventually relocated. These centers were supported largely by Christian churches from South America so the bulk of survivors with no relatives eventually settled on that continent. Our guests met, married and lived for several years as citizens of Argentina. During that time, they went to college where each earned a bachelor's degree and they became the parents of three children Both still desired to pursue the American Dream in the U.S.A. so they applied themselves to learning English.

So it was, that in the early 50s the family of five arrived in Chino, California as refugees from Argentina. The parents worked hard, became American citizens, and as the years passed, they bought and furnished a home. Each owned a late model car. All of their children had graduated from California colleges, and they were now grandparents several times over. They had retired from long held jobs, and now they lived comfortably on money in the bank that they had saved.

My friend shared membership with them in the same Christian church. She found her Christian-Jewish friends full of rich experiences which they had conveyed to her in fluent but heavily accented English. They had never previously shared a meal.

The day we met at the restaurant, Moses and Sarah Rosenstein had been out of the Camps for more than 50 years.

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