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Personal presentation prepares students for Holocaust reading assignment

Eighth-grade students at Tavares Middle School soon will read “The Diary of Anne Frank,” a book of the Teacher presentation on holocaust writings from a diary kept by a young girl while she was in hiding for two years with her family during the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands.


To help students understand more about this history of the Holocaust, language arts teacher Sylvia Yoma Tarquine talked recently about the impact it had on her family.


“If the war had lasted another week, I wouldn’t be here,” she told the first session of students gathered in the media center. “My mother is a survivor of the Holocaust and this is about the legacy she left behind.”


Her presentation, called “Hanka Awin’s Legacy,” was about her mother, who was born in Poland, the daughter of a well-known architect. She grew up to become a textile designer and married around the time the Nazis invaded Poland.


“Because the war had already started, and they were Jewish, they had to either hide, escape or find a way not to get caught,” Tarquine told the students. “My mother’s mother in-law was a very determined woman. She found ways to get false identity papers.”


The presentation was peppered with photographs from her family archives, audio of her mother telling parts of the story in her own voice, and images of handwritten letters that helped her piece together her family history.


Students hung on every word as she told of how her grandfather was shot by the Nazis and her grandmother was taken to an extermination camp; how her mother’s husband, a musician who was active in the resistance movement, disappeared after leaving to meet friends in the park; and how they used a figurine in the window to signal whether it was safe for any of the family members to come home.


After the war, her mother eventually immigrated to the U.S., settled in the lower east side of Manhattan and became naturalized American citizens.


It was a story of family, loss, rebirth and legacy. It helped students understand the horrors of the Holocaust and the strength of those who survived and thrive in spite of it.