The memories here belong to others. Fragmented and ephemeral, they are pieced together in the way one seeks out colored glass along a shore. Held together, they gleam as brilliantly as a stained glass window in fading sunlight. These stories are from the life of an elusive yet tenacious woman; they are the stories of Silvia Narma.
In part, the stories collected here, record my search to find Silvia, an Estonian woman who lived down the street from me in a small, unassuming village in Vermont. Each piece can be read like a meditation, reverentially approaching a woman who lived a difficult, but determined life, through the social disasters of twentieth-century Europe; a woman who moved through life with the indelible mark of a Nazi labor camp.
Rarely abandoned by tragedy, Silvia held a passion and curiosity for life, despite all that she suffered and lost. These stories celebrate and memorialize the ninety-six years of her indomitable spirit.
My story intersects with Silvia’s, but only through a happenstance of geography and a fleeting slip of time. She was my neighbor, but I came to her village too late. I never met Silvia.
I never looked into her eyes, faded a pale blue with age. I never stepped into her house, overrun by animals, or heard her tell a story in her opinionated voice, rich with Estonian accent. But Silvia came to me nonetheless.
She first came to me through the beauty of her garden. She now comes to me through the slow, but wonderful process of listening to the stories of those who knew her and seeking her name on the forgotten pages that document her life.
This is the story of finding Silvia. The story of a woman who was once my neighbor, but a woman who was much larger than a little village can hold. This story belongs to Silvia.