What compelled a 60+-year-old man, who had been diagnosed previously with blockages of his heart but refused surgery, to begin running marathons? You could say his running began back in Bilgoraj, Poland.
“I call this invisible power” Simcha was known to say. What made my father run with exhilaration every day in heavy downpours, freezing temperatures and snow, eventually running races and marathons logging thousands of miles?
Interviewed by numerous magazine and newspaper reporters why Simcha ran, he would reply “because he could” and the people he lost in his hometown of Bilgoraj could not. In fact, what kept him motivated running was picturing lost but not forgotten childhood friends from Poland running alongside him every day.
Here is an excerpt from his story in his own words.
"I, Simcha-Melech Szac from Bilgoraj, Poland, want to ask the editors (from the start) to publish my tragic life-history which troubles me by day and by night and does not let me sleep since I left my dear and beloved mother with a small sister Lubale, 13 years of age. I went away looking for my two brothers, at such a time when the world was in flames.
That means to say in Yiddish, when I, Simcha-Melech went away to look for Noah, Noah came to them and met up with my mother and Lubale, and they went away by ship to Stancie Luski.
They did not leave any address. ...by the same way as I in 1941, later in 1994 (when I went there to find out the truth for the first time that German airplanes [bombed the ship they were on and – ed. note.] drowned them, till in 1994
when I went to the place where I had left them, I found out the truth what
has happened to my dear ones,......"
“…the memory of my mother’s features are now fuzzy in my mind but her expression on her face when I said I was leaving still haunts me today. I will never forget this.”
This book is about Simcha Melach Shatz, (his friends in America called him Sam), a Holocaust survivor from Bilgoraj, Poland. Simcha, in Hebrew, means joy, which ironically, he did not seem to have much of in his life.
My father passed away before he could write his own book but he spent his entire life trying to tell his story. He wrote his story in Russian, Hebrew, Yiddish, Polish, and English. He left hundreds and hundreds of cassette tapes for me to listen to when he passed; these tapes held parts and pieces of his story which I have transcribed over the past four years.
Simcha knew that the media was the key to sharing his story with the world. Somehow he managed to get in front of various newspaper reporters, television cameras, and have his story told in numerous other forms of media.
It is not easy for a 2nd generation to grow up with a holocaust survivor; you see their pain and somehow their pain becomes yours. I want to share my experiences with other 2nd generations to help them understand what they are feeling.
My goals in sharing this book are to remember the people who were murdered in Bilgoraj, Poland, remember my father and his family, and fulfill a silent promise I made to them all; to keep their memory alive.
I pray that this book calls upon other 2nd generations to take the time to get the stories from the holocaust survivors they know ... before it is too late for many of them are disappearing rapidly.