My dedushka was brought to Berlin by the blitzkrieg of bombs and bullets that rained down on the land he called home, the home of the family that he swore to protect.
He put his body on the line and went to face hell, to defend his people and the ground that gave them life. His brothers died defending that land, leaving their families well before their time.
The war took its toll, even after the tide turned, and the Nazi terror’s advance was forced back. My grandfather kept afloat as the waves of war crashed and swept him along. Through a barrage of bullets, he rode the storm to its epicenter. The thundering of the battles booming all around him, the blood soaked streets, the groans of agony from his comrades and his enemies, can still be heard in some dark alleys and city streets. The echoes of the shots still ring off the surface of the walls left standing. I touched those indentations, the imprints, the physical memory, of what dedushka experienced as a living hell.
“Perhaps one of these bullet holes came from the gun he fired,” my host proposed as we looked upon the pockmarked building still scarred from the siege. Was he here, I wondered? Did he do battle in this very spot? What must have been going through his mind, through his body, I could only imagine. I’m here because of the sacrifice he made.
My grandfather was compelled to fight. When I came here, I was compelled to dance.
In part because the war robbed him of that chance. I came to Berlin blessed with peace, the peace that he fought for, that his brothers died for. The peace they would want me to enjoy. So I found the place where the people gather with open hearts and minds, putting their bodies on a different line.
To the beat of the bongos and synthesized seductive tones, my feet found their pulse. The floor was my foundation on which I pounded the Earth in rhythmic, undulating, dynamic gesticulations of body and breath. I stepped. I stomped. My physical form sang the song of my soul, metabolizing grief of the past, feeling the joy of being alive here and now, filling my cup until it overflowed with the ecstasy of the dance.
It splashed around the space. Others’ cups were overflowing and spilling too, a bliss that couldn’t be contained. It washed over and through us, German and Jew alike, a mosaic of nations from around the world. It wove us together and bound our wounds. From trauma to tribal medicine, from battle to brotherhood, sisterhood, humanhood. A healing of the Heart.
My grandfather was in Berlin to fight. I found myself in Berlin to dance.