The Metamorphism of Freedom

As most of you know, I have a thing for butterflies.  They surround me constantly, decorating my walls both at home and at work.  I have jewelry, hair pieces, and clothing adorned with butterflies and will most likely have one tattooed on me at some point in my life.

Butterflies don’t live here…in the ghetto.

The reason behind this little insect obsession is two fold.  First of all, I love the creation of the butterfly…how it morphs from a tiny worm-like ground dweller into one of nature’s most beautiful wind sailors.  They endure struggle, embrace change, and emerge completely transformed.  I know many of us have made similar journeys in our lives, learning to accept change and discovering we are all the better for it.  There was a time in my life when I made a similar transformation.  I was about as low as I could go and literally “cocooned myself” for months…and when I finally broke free, I was someone completely different…and I’m all the better for it.

Secondly, the butterfly is free…free to do as it pleases and free to go where it wants to go.  It’s not bound by rules or restrictions and, in its freedom, helps spread joy and happiness to wherever it goes.  Since the end of World War II, may Jewish people have come to acknowledge the butterfly as a representation of hope and liberation…not only because it’s so obviously free, but because of a certain poem written by a young man named Pavel Freidmann…a simple, yet powerful poem that quickly became the mantra of many people who suffered from loss of life, family, friends, and freedom.

You can find this poem, plus many other drawings and stories, in the heart-wrenching book, I Never Saw Another Butterfly, a beautiful anthology of children’s drawings and writings from the Terezin Concentration Camp.

“The Butterfly”

The last, the very last,
So richly, brightly, dazzlingly yellow.
Perhaps if the sun’s tears would sing
against a white stone. . . .

Such, such a yellow
Is carried lightly ‘way up high.
It went away I’m sure because it wished to
kiss the world good-bye.

For seven weeks I’ve lived in here,
Penned up inside this ghetto.
But I have found what I love here.
The dandelions call to me
And the white chestnut branches in the court.
Only I never saw another butterfly.

That butterfly was the last one.
Butterflies don’t live in here,
in the ghetto.

Pavel Freidmann, January 7, 1921-September 29, 1944.  Killed in Aushchwitz.

Come back every Tuesday for “The Bees Knees”, where I post the best quotes from my favorite movies, TV shows, songs, and books.

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