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Exclusive articles, interviews, and insights covering downsizing & decluttering, genealogy, photos and other media, aging well, travel, and more. We’re here to help you capture the big little moments and stories to bring meaning and even order to all of life’s collections for generations.
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HOLIDAYS
A Family Story Shared for International Holocaust Remembrance Day

For many of us the history of the Holocaust is just that, history. If you have visited the US Holocaust Memorial Museum you may have a somewhat deeper appreciation for its continuing resonance in our lives. If you have also traveled to those regions where the concentration and labor camps existed, you may have a still greater understanding as well as that overwhelming desire to see these lessons learned live on through us and unite us against these evils. 

Gates of Auschwitz with the words ARBEIT MACHT FREI

What we worry about at Artifcts is that as those of the generation who survived the horrors of the Holocaust dwindle in number, will enough of us take up the imperative to preserve those stories that exist within our own family histories? Today, on the International Remembrance Day, Arti Community member @Dr_Dani_Q shares her own family's stories of surviving the Holocaust in hopes of encouraging other families to look back in their family and community histories to ask the questions, document the answers, and share with others so it will not be lost. It will become a part of our living history.

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My Grandfather’s Story: A Marriage of Survival, Pride, and Service

It was evening. My great grandmother approached and drew closed the curtains at the window where my then 12-year-old grandfather sat, sparing him from the sight of the SS soldiers lining up and summarily executing his Jewish neighbors who had lived across the street.

This was Kaunus, Lithuania. The year was 1942. SS soldiers occupied homes across Lithuania, including the farmhouse where my grandfather lived. Having already suffered months of servitude to the SS soldiers they were forced to house, my great uncle secured secret passage for his brother’s family that same night as their neighbors were executed via the railroad he worked on. They traveled through Europe and eventually onward to safety in Brooklyn, New York, in 1949.  The uncle stayed behind, working in secret to secure passage for all who he could.

Black and white photo of an ocean passenger ship

 
The ship my grandfather and his family took to the United States.

Many do not realize that millions of non-Jews, even those blonde-haired blue-eyed Lithuanians like my grandfather, were forced to serve in non-disclosed labor camps and executed by the Nazis during WWII. Unlike some who survived, as you will read about next, my grandfather spent his life telling his personal story from his youth during WWII in eastern Europe, lest we forget. He also traveled back to Lithuania, always returning to us with presents like amber and carved eggs, urging us to remember and embrace our cultural heritage. And he served for freedom and democracy, working as a translator in 10 languages for the US Army. 

Amber Necklaces

Homemade necklace of amber from Lithuania

 

My Grandmother’s Story: Twin Pillars of Survival and Trauma

My grandfather met my grandmother in New York in 1957 at a Belarusian cultural center. You know the type, even if only from movies: native food, dances, and all other aspects of community. The community center was the only place my grandmother would be among her own for the rest of her life. 

Unlike my grandfather, my grandmother's experience in 1943 as an 11-year-old Russian Orthodox Catholic child in a Nazi labor camp turned her away from her Belarusian homeland and the whole of Eastern Europe forever.

 

scanned photo of a ship passenger manifest from May 1951Scanned copy of a ship passenger manifest validating when my grandmother,
 
 
parents, and siblings arrived in NYC, NY, in May 1951... under Polish papers!

I have always been interested in my family history and genealogy. But it wasn’t until a year ago that I asked my uncle to tell me more about my grandmother’s experiences during WWII. All I knew was that as a child she was in a labor camp in Nazi-occupied Europe, and that one day, while bending down to pick up a piece of laundry she dropped while folding in the officers’ barracks, bullets were sprayed across the building by American troops who arrived to liberate the camp. The fallen laundry saved her life. “You still believe that story,” exclaimed my shocked and disbelieving uncle. 

He then told the me, the 32-year-old adult me, at last, the true story. 

My grandmother was lined up in an execution ditch. She watched as the SS officers executed one person after another. She was number 10. They were on number seven when American troops stormed into the camp, saving her (and her entire family).

Let me tell you, my grandmother, she was 5 feet tall and really fierce. The eldest of four siblings, survivor of a Nazi labor camp, ... you can understand why! I just wish I had known her story when she was alive, because knowing it made me understand and respect her that much more. I would have understood better the generational trauma I witnessed through her decisions and behaviors. I would have understood why she was so tough and closed-off, refusing to speak of her past. And why she chose to assimilate to her new life in the United States to such a degree that she never spoke her native languages again; never visited her homeland again. I just wish I had known. 

 

Our Story 

Today my family honors and preserves our heritage through food, certainly—cold borscht, balandelai, and koldunai/kolduny!—as well as travel, sharing of the trinkets my grandfather first bought for us with our own children, and of course by sharing our stories. 

You’ll see if you read the Artifcts I have shared that Artifcts has become our outlet to secure this history. I get to keep so many things that I wish I had from my mom and grandparents. It relieves a weird amount of stress from the “What if” category, and what I would leave behind in the terrible event that something happens to me. That’s why I am sharing my family’s story today. To urge you all, how ever, where ever you feel comfortable – capture your history so it can live on.

- Dr. Dani Q

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© 2023 Artifcts, Inc. All Rights Reserved. 

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Remembering Your Roots - Head Home with Artifcts!

Growing up, my father used to embark on a rousing melody of “Over the River and Through the Woods” on just about any family car trip that occurred between Thanksgiving and Christmas. (Or at least that is what it felt like to my five-year-old self.) We knew the words by heart, although not quite as Lydia Maria Child penned them back in 1844 in her original poem by the same title. Her original poem included the refrain “Hurray for Thanksgiving Day,” yet nowadays, the refrain heard at the end is most often, “Hurray for Christmas Day.” 

I have on occasion caught myself singing the same song to my daughter when we embark on a long car trip, although she is not as accommodating as we were back then. Her immediate response is usually, “Mom, you’re embarrassing me.” Right.  

Regardless of whether you’re going over the river and through the woods or flying halfway around the world, the holidays have a way of pulling us home, bringing us back to our roots. There’s no doubt something comforting about the sights, smells, and sounds of being “home.”  

Although I am not going home this holiday season—my family is scattered, and my childhood home is no longer in the family—I did go “home” over the summer. I took my daughter on a whirlwind tour of Cape Cod and had the good fortune to be joined by my co-founder and her daughter for our adventure. (Ellen previously wrote about our experience and ALL THOSE PHOTOS here.) 

For me, it was a trip down memory lane, for them, it was a new and exciting adventure. The Old Dexter Grist Mill was a fun and historically interesting spot; for me it wasn’t just the Grist Mill, but one of our favorite fishing spots growing up. Kayaking the marshes around Sandwich, MA was a unique way to appreciate the diverse marsh ecosystem; for me it was reliving countless afternoons creek jumping and mucking about in marsh boots that always seemed to be two sizes too big.  

I wish I had Artifcts “back in the day” so I could have captured my childhood home and all the memories. I still remember the details, small and large, that made my home “my home.” The butcher block countertops that hugged our kitchen, the white couch we were only allowed to sit on for photos, and yes, even our front door with its cranberry red trim and large granite slab front step.  

For those of you that are going “home” this holiday season—take a moment to remember your roots and capture the sights, sounds, and memories of being home. Artifct your favorite room in the house or maybe even the whole house! Your future self will thank you.  

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© 2022 Artifcts, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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What's Your Stuffing Style?

For many in the United States, the Thanksgiving holiday increasingly brings together friends and family in a potluck format that opens the door to more time to hang out together and less stress on any single home chef. This means you might have to gamble on whether cousin Patrick or your neighbor Amara will bring the version of cranberries, green beans, or stuffing that you love best. 

A delicious cranberry compote could easily turn off those who hang on to the canned version with a sly grin. Green beans for some must be creamy and topped with fried onions, making others turn and run for something a bit … healthier. Oh, and the pies! Forget it if you are committed to pumpkin pie and someone dares to suggest apple, pecan, or something truly unconventional – mincemeat anyone? 

Equally divisive and diverse are the stuffings of the world! Do you use white bread or cornbread? Does seafood like oysters make an appearance in the ingredients list? 

If you are opinionated on stuffing, or any other staple of Thanksgiving, you better get your game face on and Artifct and share that recipe in advance to sway the crowd in your favor.  

Our co-founder Ellen Goodwin’s family circle on Artifcts is already full of recipes people are volunteering for Thursday, including her father's stuffing recipe. Artifcts co-founder @Heather already shared her mother's apple pie. Now they’ll be ahead of the game this year and for years to come!  Will you?  

Please share your recipes on Artifcts.com or with us on social media! 

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© 2022 Artifcts, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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Artifcts: The New Love Language

We have a confession. Artifcts is our new love language.

We hope it will be yours, too. We know from experience what a delightful surprise it is to be greeted with a new Artifct in your inbox!

Yes, an Artifct usually takes 60 seconds or less to create, but it's made with love, from the photos and videos you choose to the details you include. For Artifcts' co-founders most of the Artifcts they have created are for their children, sharing bits of themselves as well as remembering for their children things that will slip from their memories or already have faded away a la Inside Out's lovable character Bing Bong.

An Artifct is an interactive gift you can share from any distance. It becomes a topic of conversation, a happy memory shared, a new story discovered. For some, it's even passing a piece of history from one person to another and will grow over time with new details added.

This Valentine's Day as you pause for a moment to absorb all the positive in life, surprise someone—friend, sister, neighbor, professor, parent, son—with an Artifct!

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© 2022 Artifcts, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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Deck the Halls (And the Trees!)

Thomas Oliphant first penned the words to Deck the Halls in 1862. Times have changed, and so too have traditions. One of the many traditions that we hold dear and celebrate as the co-founders of Artifcts is decorating a Christmas tree. (Although we also love decking the halls, banisters, and really anything that happens to stand still long enough to be decorated. Just ask our dogs Sasso and Sherlock.) 

In our house, unpacking ornaments brings back memories, laughter, and stories. So many stories! Remember the time when? Where did we get this again? And even the occasional, what is this? (Often asked when examining a beloved handmade ornament from years past.) 

We invite you to join us in the decking of the virtual Arti halls this year. Artifct and share your favorite ornament, whether it is the memento from a far flung and memorable trip or the adorable handmade ornaments made years ago. ‘Tis the season to be jolly.  

XOXO Artifcts Team

© 2021 Artifcts, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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It Wouldn't Be Thanksgiving Without...
Dear Readers,
The holidays are fast approaching and here at Artifcts we are already thinking about our favorite “things.” High on that list are recipes. Nothing evokes memories quite like the smell, taste, and look of our favorite recipes. They may be ones made year after year or passed down for generations. “It wouldn’t be Thanksgiving without....” Or maybe you have a new favorite, one that was discovered during our national COVID-induced cooking craze.
Nothing evokes memories quite like the smell, taste, and look of our favorite recipes.
For me, nothing says “holiday” quite like one of my mom’s tea breads. These breads were always present on our holiday table, almost as important as the turkey. (Or if you were to ask some of my family members, MORE important than the turkey.) They are simple to make and present beautifully when arrayed on a platter or served warm from the oven. Sweet enough to appeal to children and children at heart, but not too sweet to be reserved for the dessert table. (Although I grew up eating tea breads in lieu of more conventional desserts.)
  
I am now the “keeper” of the recipes as my mother is no longer here. I can always count on a phone call or two from my aunts and brothers the week before Thanksgiving to get copies of the recipes and to double check the countless alterations my mother made to each recipe. Did she double the cranberries? Omit the orange zest? Was it two bananas or three?
I am now the “keeper” of the recipes as my mother is no longer here.
This year I have decided to Artifct the recipes and share with family and friends. No more searching through old photos, disintegrating recipe books, or recalling from memory the substitutions that my mother made. The stories, photos, and memories are all here in one place, as well as every ingredient, alteration, and the occasional quote of kitchen wisdom passed down from my mother to me.
I invite you Dear Reader to join me in Artifcting your favorite family recipes this holiday season. Keep the traditions alive and share the love (or at least the banana bread). 
Happy Artifcting,
Heather 
© 2021 Artifcts, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
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