Edith Eger delivers message of resilience to CMC audience
Auschwitz survivor Edith Eger’s message of overcoming tragedy and trauma, living life to its fullest and spreading as much love as possible along the way struck Colorado Mountain College student Jessica Beltran.
“What was really important to me is that she talked about life and love, and how you want to appreciate the people in your life because she lost so many people she loved at a very young age,” Beltran reflected after listening to Eger speak at CMC’s Spring Valley campus Wednesday night.
“And, just because something terrible happened to her, that isn’t the person she is … she can’t forget it, but she can learn from it, and grow from it,” Beltran, who joined some 500 people at Spring Valley’s brand new Outdoor Leadership Center and Field House for Eger’s talk.
In addition to the large crowd on-site, another 350 people viewed the live simulcast online, either on their own or at one of the six Garfield County Library branches, according to CMC officials.
Eger, 92, is the author of the acclaimed book, “The Choice: Embrace the Possible,” who travels far and wide to tell her story of surviving Auschwitz from the time she was a young child until the end of WWII when she was a teenager.
She went on to live and raise a family in the United States, and became a psychologist working to help people, including war veterans, through post-traumatic stress.
“I think it was extremely important for this community to hear what she had to say,” attendee David Chimovitz offered. “In today’s day and age, especially with the politics that we’re facing, her message is immensely important for the youth of our community, as well as the people who have been around to see the transitions we are experiencing today.”
Dalana Debrincat, another CMC student on hand for the event, said it was a privilege to learn about Eger’s and what she has been through. Her book was the selection this fall for CMC’s Common Reader program.
“A big takeaway for me was when she said that ‘guilt is for the past, and worry is for the future, so live in the now,'” Debrincat said of one of the adages Eger’s shared in a special gathering with students earlier in the day.
“I thought that was very interesting, because a lot of people like to live in the past with what they did,” Debrincat said. “But if you knew what you know now, you would do things differently, and that’s what’s important.”
Laurie Taylor and Sarah Thornal brought several members of their Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints youth group to hear the presentation, including Allison Baltzer.
“It’s just really sad that she lost a lot of people during the Holocaust,” Baltzer said. “I don’t feel like the Jews deserved that … just because they’re different doesn’t mean they are outcasts.”
“I enjoyed her message about love,” Thornal added. “I mean, it does come down to that and how it can heal so many.”
And, for Taylor, “She talked about how our differences can complement each other, rather than tearing us apart. We can grow closer from our differences.”
CMC President Carrie Hauser introduced Eger and related her message to CMC’s embracing of diversity and acceptance.
“Through her tragic experience, subsequent resilience, and the choices she made along the way, Edith reminds us that love, inclusivity and acceptance are powerful antidotes to hate, to fear and to prejudice,” Hauser said.
During her hour-long talk, Eger weaved stories about her time at Auschwitz, followed by several years under communist rule when she relocated to Czechoslovakia after the war, eventually coming to the United States and raising a family.
“I don’t believe that there are problems in the world, there are challenges. I don’t think there are crises in the world, there are transitions,” she said. “Change is very important because if you don’t change, you don’t grow.”
Eger also offered a message to young people to avoid the distraction that can make them unproductive in life and to go on to be good parents someday.
“Discover the real you … that is a one-of-a-kind diagram,” she said.
“I’m grateful that I not only survived but that I was here to help guide people from victimization to empowerment, from darkness to light,” Eger said.
She also reflected on the words her mother uttered to her as their family was being loaded onto a cattle car headed for Auschwitz.
“’I don’t know where we’re going, or what’s going to happen,'” she said. “‘But just remember, no one can take away from you what you put in your own mind.'”
CMC also hosted Eger for a talk at Battle Mountain High School in Edwards on Thursday.
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