May 26, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

Fighting Like a Lion for Remembrances, Too

Dr. Gary Lelonek, to all appearances, seems an unlikely candidate to have written a spellbinding saga of courage and resistance. He is soft spoken, and his quiet demeanor and modesty belie his talents as a medical professional, researcher and grandson of a survivor. Don’t be fooled. He is razor-sharp intellectually, and savvy enough to know that even personal accounts of the Holocaust are strengthened by credible documentation.

This Saturday night, November 5, at 8:00 p.m. at Congregation Shomrei Torah in Fair Lawn, Dr. Lelonek will present his recently published, carefully documented and critically acclaimed book, “We Fought Like Lions,” which recounts how his paternal grandfather, Charlie Shaya Lelonek, not only survived the Holocaust but also saved nearly his entire family from the clutches of the Nazis. Charlie’s exploits included a stint in the Red Army and participation in the Warsaw Uprising of 1944.

Dr. Lelonek fell upon his grandfather’s odyssey almost by accident. His uncle, David Lelonek, had recorded Charlie’s oral history for a class he was taking with Yaffa Eliach, renowned author and Holocaust survivor. The transcript of the interviews, which David recorded during one week in 1980, were all but forgotten by the time Dr. Lelonek contacted the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum (USHMM) in 2010 about his one great-uncle who had not survived the war. Dr. Lelonek was astonished when the USHMM provided a list of places where his grandfather, who had registered with the International Red Cross in search of his brother, had traveled after the war.

O.K., non-spoiler alert. Dr. Lelonek’s account of his sleuthing and discoveries will be both visual and oral, and goes well beyond the historical. Although it is an account of his grandfather, a singular individual, Dr. Lelonek’s training as a psychiatrist precludes him from ignoring the psychological impact of survivorship on the survivor and his/her loved ones. So that will be part of the evening’s discussion.

A Q&A session and book signing will follow the presentation.

By Randy (Rachel) Kovacs

 

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