Talli Ebin is the first-generation daughter of Russian-Jewish immigrants. She grew up in Los Angeles under the shadow of WWII, although the experiences and deaths of family members were never mentioned. Anything known was discovered by accident. She now lives in Western Montana with her husband.
My father’s twin brother
was killed at Treblinka,
his older sister in the Ukraine.
Their families died with them.
The family had a house, a dacha,
in a place called Wolokumpia,
where they would gather
on the front porch, or swim,
or take a boat out on the river.
There are small photographs of them,
all the brothers and wives,
their children sitting on the grass.
The old black and white pictures
give no signs, showing who lived and who died.
They are people enjoying good weather.
When my brother and I
were children, in Los Angeles,
my father built a wooden house
in the mountains near a lake
where we would spend the summers.
We still remember running free
through the woods, swimming
in the cold lake, building
snowmen in the winter.
We had food there,
strawberry soda, jello mixed
with ice cream, that we never
ate at home. My father
would preside at the barbeque.
My father died young;
I imagine his heart died mourning
the young man who shared
his mother’s womb. Or
the sister whose children
were shot as she watched.
He built our wooden house,
I think now, so we would have
memories like his of Wolokumpia:
a place for the family to gather
in freedom and conviviality,
to eat strange food, swim,
fish, and gather remembrance
of each other in fortunate life,
to recollect the graveless dead.