Illustration of Derek Powazek by Adam Ellis

For You, Grandma


This photo was taken in a Displaced Persons Camp in Austria in 1949. That’s my Grandma and Grandpa Powazek with their two sons. That fat kid on the right is my dad, who was born in the camp. A year later, they’d be in New York.

They were in that camp because they fled from their home in Poland. They were refugees from war, victims of discrimination, lucky to escape with their lives.

My grandparents had lifelong scars from that war for the rest of their lives. Grandma always worried. She knew the next time was just around the corner.

As the first grandson, the beginning of the new generation of American-born Powazeks, I tried to reassure my grandma. I told her that life was better now. The war was over. It was safe here.

But as this disgusting election has worn on, and all of the old anti-Semitism, xenophobia, and intolerance has returned to the surface … I just don’t know anymore. More than once I’ve felt grateful that she isn’t here to witness it.

My grandparents could have gone to other places, but they waited for years to get out of that camp. They wanted to come to America. Because it was the land of opportunity.

I think they understood what makes America great better than the politicians who talk about American greatness today. Because those same politicians scapegoat immigrants, use thinly-veiled anti-Semitic slurs, and insult minorities.

I’m proud to be an American. My family literally died for the freedoms we have now. So I used that freedom to cast a vote against bigotry and for Hillary Clinton this year.

I did it because I believe in this place. Because I’m lucky that I’m able to. And because Grandma Powazek would have.

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Hi, I’m Derek. I used to make websites. Now I grow flowers and know things. I’m mostly harmless. More.