I was fortunate enough to form a relationship with Elie Wiesel through his winter seminar at Eckerd College (2011) on The Role of the Witness. During our time together, we grew close, and I at one point had the opportunity to speak with him about my grandmother Regina Kucinski, a Jehovah’s Witness and his fellow Holocaust survivor who as a child in the concentration camps had experienced similar horrors. However, unlike Dr. Wiesel, my grandmother had never had a voice, and her story was on the verge of being lost to history. It was through Dr. Wiesel’s insights into morality, memory and the human spirit that I was inspired to gather and share her testimony with others, impelling me to travel to Poland with my father—her son—to accomplish this goal.
Today, Regina’s story can be found online as a three-hour video recording of who she is, where she came from and what she experienced. Her testimony exists as living history for the education of future generations and has served to bring my family closer together in unique and unexpected ways. As Dr. Wiesel taught me, painful memories that are never shared can create dissonance between people, but when shared they can inspire empathy, curiosity and love. It has certainly done this for me. At a personal level, I feel much closer to her, my immediate family and my ancestral history, and it gives me great pride to know where I come from and from whom I am descended. The process of interviewing my grandmother was an experience I will never forget, and I am eternally grateful to Dr. Wiesel for motivating me to embark on this journey years ago.
Elie Wiesel was one of the most extraordinary human beings I have met, and I feel lucky to have had the opportunity to get to know him in the way I did. His grace and admiration commanded a respect that was truly unique, and he was one of those rare people worth imitating in every capacity: mind, body and spirit. He will be missed, but his memory will never be forgotten. Thank you, Dr. Wiesel, for all that you have taught me and for all the wisdom you have shared with those around you.
Forever your student and friend,
—Lukas Kucinski ’12