My great grandmother, Josephine Marks, lived in Austria (now territory of Ukraine) during the time of the Holocaust. She escaped with gypsies as a teenage girl and made it to America after many years of saving money. She wrote a book named Nona, named after her gypsy name, which described her journeys as a child and her escape from Europe during the reign of Hitler. So, “Like grandma, like granddaughter,” my mom saved up money for years to take me and my sister on a trip of a lifetime to discover our great-grandmother’s heritage and see where she once lived.
For 12 days of winter break, I traveled across Europe visiting Germany, Hungary, Czech Republic, Austria, Ukraine, and London. The architecture in Europe amazed me; learning the history of these countries is extremely interesting, and I even got to see some of the famous artwork I studied in my AP Art History class in high school. I stood inches away from masterpieces by artists like Gustav Klimt (my personal favorite) and Claude Monet. I traveled throughout Europe with a tour group called Cosmos, and each of our bus rides to different areas were mini history and language lessons given by our tour guide, Bea. My favorite destination, Prague, Czech Republic, is where I walked across the Charles Bridge, visited the Dancing Housing (Tančící dům), watched the Astronomical Clock reach the next hour of the day, and spent an hour in its famous Christmas Market.
After the guided tour, my family and I set forth to Ukraine on our own adventure to discover Great-Grandma Josephine’s past. We used the book she published as our map and looked for the buildings and areas she described. On the edge of the forest, just as it is stated in the book, we found a large home and a small playhouse across the street in the woods. After using logical reasoning, we came to the conclusion that this indeed must be her home and playhouse where she lived in the 1900s. After returning home, we visited my Papa (son of Josephine), who immediately looked at our pictures and told us he had seen these same buildings in photographs his mother used to show him. My European adventure ended with a brain full of knowledge about six different countries and footsteps left on the same dirt roads my great-grandmother once walked on.
Written by: Meg Hossler, second-year student, Honors Social Chair & Pre-Nursing major