Renee Bornstein, survivor of the Holocaust, and Sokphal Din, survivor of the Genocide in Cambodia, are delighted to have received thousands of messages from people who took part in the Postcard Project for Holocaust Memorial Day (HMD) 2019.
The project explored the HMD 2019 theme: Torn from home. Participants from across the UK learned about the life stories of Renee and Sokphal who were both forced to flee their homes to escape persecution and murder. After learning about their personal experiences, participants then wrote them a message on a postcard, and later received a response.
Speaking about how it felt to take delivery of the postcards Sokphal said ‘I was surprised when a full box arrived! I was so overwhelmed and emotional that I cried with joy. I immediately picked some out and read them. Every word is precious and valuable – the messages are from people’s hearts and they are really thoughtful’.
Renee described how the postcards were ‘beautifully written and full of feeling’. When asked why she felt it was important to take part in the project she said ‘It’s important that children learn to be human, learn humanity. It’s a marvellous thing to teach them to feel for others, to be tolerant to different races and religions’.
Sokphal explained that ‘by sharing my experience of a living hell, I want to send a message to people, and show the world what happened in the Genocide in Cambodia. It is important for my mother’s memory – She inspired me to share my story and be active. If I don’t talk about it, who will know how people suffered? Some people didn’t have a chance to tell the world what happened to them – the pain and sadness and hunger they went through. I do it for them as well as myself – for the victims of the genocide, and for other survivors’.
When reflecting on what they think people learnt by reading their stories, both Renee and Sokphal spoke about their hope that people would learn the importance of tolerance at a time of increasing division and hatred in society:
Renee said: ‘I think that people learnt to be tolerant – that’s the big thing in my life, that people learn this. When I switch on the television and see what’s happening in the world it makes me very sad to see that no one learnt from the past…. But the project is good, I’m 100% sure it will have a great impact. You hear about the antisemitism and anti-muslim hate today. Humans should be tolerant to each other. People shouldn’t be persecuted for the way they are born.’
Sokphal said: ‘I believe that people have learned about genocide and thought about hatred in the UK today, and what the cause of all this hate is. From my life, they can see what the result of hate can be. They can also see that there is hope for everyone, whatever you are going through’
Sokphal expressed his deepest thanks to those who took part in the project, explaining how he will treasure the postcards – ‘I want to keep them all forever... I will treasure them’.
Renee’s daughter has put her postcards into an album, which Renee can keep for future generations of her family. She said: ‘They are very precious and special, and I would like to keep them for my grandchildren, great grandchildren and for generations to come.’
HMDT’s Chief Executive Olivia Marks-Woldman said: ‘We are delighted that so many people from all corners of the UK took the time at HMD 2019 activities to learn about Renee and Sokphal’s experiences. The thousands of thoughtful responses we received from people of all ages demonstrate a huge outpouring of empathy and a deep sense of thanks to Renee and Sokphal for sharing their experiences with others. We are delighted that this project succeeded in adding significantly to people’s knowledge of the Holocaust and genocide, enabling them to work towards a better future.’
Click on the links below to read the life stories of Renee and Sokphal, and to find out how you can get involved with projects for HMD 2020.