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September 16, 2009
By Mary Hunton
Even 60 years after the end of World War II, the stories of those affected continue to live on. After the devastating events that took place, many survivors have opened up and shared their experiences. Among them is Eva Kor, one of the few twins who survived Dr. Josef Mengele’s horrific experiments. She will be visiting the University of Nevada, Reno, on Sept. 30 to speak with faculty and students in the Nightingale Concert Hall at 7 p.m.
Influential to bringing Kor to Reno is a man with a similar story to tell. Vladimir Volovik, whose parents were forced laborers during the war, has his own familiarity with the damage it caused. It was this experience with his parents that began his search, which later allowed him to connect emotionally with Kor.
“What my parents went through, from childhood to the point where you could say they hit pay dirt and got to this country, their experiences were harsh and very dangerous,” Volovik said. “I as a child observed that there was this darkness that clung onto everything, and instinctively I knew that something wasn’t right. The story that I wrote is based on the lives of my parents and their experience is certainly relatable to Eva’s.”
Though his parents were never in concentration camps, their stories start pre-World War II and extend further than that. In his book, “Dreamers,” Volovik details everything from their beginnings to his first memories of living with them as a child. It was not easy.
“They get (to America) and they’re freaking out,” he said. “Post-traumatic stress syndrome to the max, and they’re arguing with each other and driving each other crazy and we had to listen to it every day. It was tough.”
However, despite that, Volovik was able to overcome his pain and empathize with his parents, a perspective that is extremely reflective of how Kor views the world. Through forgiveness, she managed to find a way to escape all that happened to her in the war and move on with life.
“She simply realized that in order to relieve herself of her own grief, self-healing was the only way it was going to work,” Volovik said. “I happily understand what she’s saying. I put aside my bitterness and my resentments, or the tendency that I may have had toward that, and I was able to start to see human beings in principle.”
Volovik first became familiar with Kor after watching a documentary called “Forgiving Dr. Mengele,” which focuses on Kor’s ability to forgive in order to heal herself. The documentary gave contact information, and through that Volovik was able to communicate with Kor. After building a friendship through email and phone calls, Volovik decided to bring Eva Kor to Reno. Though he believes it is important for her story to be heard, that is not his primary concern.
“What’s more important is that her message of forgiveness, that self healing,” he said. “We’ve got a lot of shattered lives. We’ve got a world of traumatized people. How do you get over that? You’ve got to figure out a way to heal yourself, and I think this is a very important message for a lot of people.