“We grew up with a bedtime story that was different from any of our friends…”
Our story didn’t involve bears or princesses. It involved the real-life adventures of our own grandfathers, great aunts, uncles and cousins, who’d hidden from the Nazis in an undiscovered cave. But to us as children, it was a magical castle where they had exciting adventures and did heroic things. As we got older, we learned the context of our fabled family bedtime story, and important lessons of history, our Jewish identity, the power of family.
Imagine the feeling of exploring that “castle” you’ve heard about since you were a child. In the fall of 2010, we traveled to Ukraine and crawled through the passages of Priest’s Grotto – the cave and castle of our childhoods.
There is the story of where they slept inside the cave, which as children we imagined looked like a covered wagon.
We laid down there.
There is the story of how one grandfather transported a 150 pound mill-stone for miles to the cave, then chiseled another to make their own bread.
We touched it.
There is the story of how they set up a kitchen and cooked inside with a ventilation system so they didn’t choke on the smoke.
We saw it.
We experienced our childhood bedtime story with all our senses, guided by our grandparents, some still alive and some who have since passed. We will return to the Priest’s Grotto in future years to share the reality of the story with our children and grandchildren. But this trip — it was a once in a lifetime opportunity — and to have it as part of an internationally released film makes us so happy to be able to share it with you.
- Erin Grunstein Halpern, Saul Stermer’s granddaughter
- Cliff Stermer, Nissel Stermer’s grandson
[Great grandchildren of family matriarch, Esther Stermer]