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Sonia Bock 1897-2005: Amy Goodman Remembers Her Grandmother, a Woman of Three Centuries

StoryOctober 10, 2005
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Amy Goodman’s grandmother, Sonia Bock, died October 5, 2005 at the age of 108. She was born in 1897, in Ruvno, Poland. She lived through the pogroms of Tsarist Russia, the Bolshevik revolution and the Holocaust.

I’d like to take this moment to thank everyone who wrote in last week to express sympathy on the loss of my grandmother. Sonia Bock died October 5, 2005 at the age of 108. Yes, she was indomitable: a woman of three centuries.

She was born in 1897, in Ruvno, Poland. She lived through Tsarist Russia, the Bolshevik revolution, the Holocaust. Though many in her family did not. Two of her brothers and their whole families perished. I remember my mother telling me about the wail; The wail that went up in the bungalow colony that my grandparents, my mom, and her sister went to every summer; The wail when my grandmother got the news that her family had been killed. Sonia Bock married my grandfather, Benjamin Bock, an orthodox rabbi from Kaunas, Lithuania in the early twenties. They came to America by boat in 1929, at the height of the Depression. In 1930, she gave birth to my mother in Harlem. The family then moved to Crown Heights, Brooklyn where they lived for decades.

In her fifties my grandmother contracted cerebral meningitis and was sent to a sanatorium in the Catskills. Not expected to live, she cut everyone’s hair and was out in two years. She was an unusual mix of old fashioned and modern in her views of women. "You must always be independent," she would say. "When your husband comes home meet him with a hug and supper, then give him the newspaper to read, but you should have already read it. Then discuss it with him. Communication is everything." She was the eternal student. She spoke four languages: Russian, Yiddish, Hebrew, English and was always taking conversation classes in French. At about 4 foot 10 inches tall, she was a pint size fireball. A life force. My heart.

I’d like to share a poem that I also read when my father died:

__
I am not there.
I do not sleep.
I am a thousand winds that blow.
I am the diamond glints on snow.
I am the sunlight on ripened grain.
I am the gentle autumn rain.
When you awaken in the morning’s hush,
I am the swift uplifting rush,
of quiet birds in circling flight.
I am the soft star that shines at night.
Do not stand at my grave and cry.
I am not there. I did not die.

- Mary Elizabeth Frye, 1932


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