Whitlam Institute

What Matters 2019 Shortlist

What Matters 2019 Shortlist

Chicken Soup

Chicken Soup

Jema Roozendaal

Year 10, Moriah College

My grandfather makes the worst chicken soup. It's cold and bland and it smells like the ocean. My brothers and I used to take turns on who would get not to eat the chicken soup each week at family dinner so we wouldn't offend him too much. We tried subtly telling him a few times that his soup wasn't quite our favourite dish, but nevertheless each week a bowl of lukewarm soup was placed in front of each of us with an instruction to eat up.

Salomon was born into a religious Jewish family in Holland. He grew up with his younger sister, Cera in a town called Arnhem, about an hour outside of Amsterdam in East Holland. He was 5 years old when the German army invaded and subsequently occupied Holland in a number of days. He was 6 years old when he was made to wear a yellow star within the streets of his own neighbourhood. He was 7 years old when his father, along with his 5 uncles, were rounded up in their home town and then transported to Westerbork and then Auschwitz.

He did not receive the luxury of a childhood. After his father was deported, Salomon, Cera and their mother hid underground with a policeman for over a year. The only times they would dare go outside was in twilight, masked by the thick of the night, their fear only ever slightly minimised. With ever-growing Nazi observation, their trio eventually had to split. My grandfather lived with a Dutch couple and his very overtly Jewish name was changed to John. Years later, he is still known as John, one of many remnants of his childhood that is inescapably permanent. My grandfather was 10 years old when he found out his father died. My grandfather was 13 years old when his mother died.My grandfather was 83 years old when a stone was laid in memory of his father, representing the burial and the grave that were not possible for any Jews who perished. 73 years after the death of my Great grandfather by the Nazi regime, my grandfather stood outside his childhood home, peering at his father's name, etched into the gold of a stone and he wept. This was the first time I ever saw my Grandfather cry. He doesn't speak of the war every day, but each day he is who he is and does what he does because of it. His hands are calloused from decades of working in a bakery after coming to Australia. His ankles are swollen from years of playing soccer competitively. But his soul, his soul is wounded from a childhood of war, of fear, of persecution for being something that he has never questioned. He is the proudest man I know. A Jew, a businessman, a chef, a father. He will never listen if we tell him his chicken soup sucks. And I hope one day, I'll be that stubborn too.