A Wonderful Evening

Sometimes in life you have the opportunity to meet the most incredible people.

Last night Carl and I took one of his clients out for dinner.  I didn’t know Sarah.  She’s Australian but for many years has lived in New York and is currently here in Sydney on personal matters.  As she and Carl have been communicating via email and text messages, we thought it would be nice to share a meal while she’s in Sydney.

We met at an Italian restaurant at 7pm.  I’d heard her father was an artist so I gave Sarah a couple of books written by my cousin about her mother who was a well-known Australian water-colour artist.

As Sarah flipped through the pages of one of the books that contained images of my great-aunt’s paintings she said, ‘I know these paintings, I’ve seen them before; they’re very familiar to me’.  And after a few more minutes of studying the images she said, ‘I know why.  My father exhibited with your great-aunt.  They must have known each other’.

Isn’t that a coincidence!  Unbelievable.

So I asked Sarah about her father.

He was born a Jew in Poland in 1921 and at the age of 19 was put in the Warsaw Ghetto.  Conditions were terrible there with Germans being allowed a ration of 2,600 calories per day but those deemed ‘sub-human’ only allowed 180 calories.  He and his brother escaped from the Ghetto and found work and accommodation on farms.  Her father was always good with his hands and he believed this is why the farmers, who must have known he was Jewish, gave him work.  At some stage he and his brother were captured and put in a concentration camp.  They found a way to escape but were re-captured.  He continually found ways to escape but would be re-captured and during the Nazi occupation he ended up in 19 different concentration camps.

He survived the war and immediately after being liberated the American Red Cross set up a place where Jews could be together and this is where he met his future wife who was an Auschwitz survivor.  I asked Sarah how it was her mother had survived Auschwitz and she shrugged and said there’s no explanation except she must have experienced a miracle because her mother’s sister had been gassed and all other family members had also been murdered.

Her father and his brother were ready to go to any country that would take them and they arrived in Australia in 1950 and lived in a one-bedroom flat in Bondi.  Two years later her mother arrived and her parents married, had two children and all five of them continued to live in the tiny flat.  And they worked hard.

Sarah’s father found a job in the rag trade and her mother worked as a seamstress.  One night her father cut out a pattern for a skirt and her mother sewed it.  He took the finished garment into work with him and showed it to his employer who said, ‘I’ll order 30 of them’.  And so this resilient and resourceful couple’s clothing business began.

At the age of three Sarah asked for piano lessons.  By the time she was around 10 years old her father was looking for a very proficient teacher for her.  He found one in a rambling federation home in Mosman and Sarah and her new teacher had a great relationship and Sarah’s piano playing improved immensely.

A lovely home for piano lessons

One day the piano teacher rang Sarah’s father totally distraught and told him she had to shut down her business as she had been served with an eviction notice and had just 13 days to move out.  Anonymously, Sarah’s father, who was not only resilient and resourceful but generous, bought the home allowing the piano teacher to continue living there and run her business.

Circa 1900

That was around 30 years ago and the piano teacher lived there until she no longer needed the home.  Sarah went on to become a graduate of the Conservatorium of Music and then the Juilliard School in New York.  Today she is one of the world’s most highly regarded concert pianists.

This home will soon be restored

Recently, the rambling federation home where Sarah spent so many years having lessons was sold.  The new owners plan to restore it to its former glory.

The room where Sarah had her lessons – and a piano is still there!

Sarah’s father is still alive but is in his 90′s.  I said to her, ‘We get old too quickly’.  And she said, ‘Yes, but I’m going to keep my parents alive by writing their story’.

And that’s a book I’ll buy without hesitation.

A father’s generous gift to his daughter’s piano teacher

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  1. What a beautiful story … just about brought tears to my eyes … especially the line about writing their story … just gorgeous (and please, if she does go on to be published I’d love to hear about it).

  2. What a remarkable story, Charlie. It’s amazing the coincidences we can find in our lives.

  3. What a great story! It’s amazing to see what resilience people had back then. We don’t see any of that anymore. I am often scared what’s going to happen to my children’s generation, they are so lazy with no sort of work ethic!

  4. thelifeofclare says:

    What a fantastic story! I really love how the world works like that! Everything in all of there lives has lead to you two meeting and you being able to tell her story! I hope you’ll share with us the name of the book when it comes out!

  5. How amazing is it when stories link together just like they are mean’t to be and then all these years later they reinvent themselves – How wonderful. Let us know when this book is published.

  6. Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella says:

    What a fascinating evening that must have been! And a book certainly worth reading too :)

  7. What a lovely house to have piano lessons. My old piano teacher was the wife of a local vicar and I had the lessons in the vicarage – a rather nice big, old stone house a few steps down a path from the church :)

  8. What an amazing evening, and so many lovely coincidences. I agree that the book will be well worth buying (and reading) – sometimes life is a lovely thing :)

  9. Thanks for sharing this story, the courage and tenacity of some old folks would put us all to shame. And what about the meal? Sometimes the stories we hear make us totally forget the food.

  10. Minnesota Prairie Roots says:

    Wow. Even in the most difficult of situations, the willpower and strength and determination to overcome prevails. Thank you for sharing this truly inspiring story of courage and generosity.

  11. What a wonderful and inspiring story. No matter how many Holocaust survival stories I hear, I get emotional. I am amazed at the miracle that anyone at all survived, and am so thankful that they did. I’m also thankful that my family left Europe before the Holocaust. Sarah’s parents sound like incredibly kind and generous people. Thank you for sharing this :)

  12. What an incredible story. My grandfather is friends with someone who was part of The Great Escape, and I met him a few years back. It’s incredible what people survive and come out shining through.

  13. Beautiful story – a book I will buy without hesitation too. The resilience and generosity of the human spirit is amazing. Thanks so much for sharing.

  14. Sweet Posy Dreams says:

    What a wonderful story. She sounds like an interesting woman with a remarkable family background. How lucky you were to meet and talk to her.

  15. I will buy that book without hesitation too. 19 different concentration camps?! Talk about a survivor. What an incredible story. And then he went on to purchase a house for his daughter’s piano teacher? He sounds like a wonderful man whose story should certainly be told. Wow.

  16. Wow, wow, WOW! This was like a mini-series in one post and most definitely a wonderful evening. Coincidence? I believe it was “meant to be.” Thank you for a delightful read, Charlie.

  17. Rocky Mountain Woman says:

    What a wonderful story! Makes you believe in humanity a little…

  18. Jennifer Cullen says:

    What an amazing story. Thanks for sharing. (But you didn’t tell us what you had for dinner!)

  19. Glamorous Glutton says:

    Wonderful story, I’m not surprised you didn’t mention the food. I don’t suppose you had much time for eating and the family story in this instance must have eclipsed the meal! GG

  20. What a great story, Charlie and such an incredible coincidence too! It’s no wonder that Sarah is so successful…her parents proved to be great examples, that’s for sure.
    Eva http://kitcheninspirations.wordpress.com

  21. What a wonderful story!! :)

  22. Victoria at Flavors of the Sun says:

    What an astounding story and amazing coincidence. Thanks for sharing.

  23. InTolerant Chef says:

    What a insight into human spirit that a man who experienced the worst of humanity was willing to still help others without hesitation and not be soured by his past. A truly inspiring story, that deserves to be preserved. Xox

  24. yummychunklet says:

    That sounds like a wonderful book! I hope she gets published.

  25. Thank you Charlie for telling this story at such length and so well: altho’ I was born a Gentile, I too arrived in this country as a child in 1948 and each and every statement loudly resonates. When I got my Leaving at Dover Heights Girls’ High in 1953, we had a socalled Matriculation Class of just 14: 11 of the girls were Jewish and 11 of us [including me and a Greek incomer] received Commonwealth Scholarships to study at university – and, yes, almost all of us lived in tiny flats and had parents doing unaccustomed work so we could have it better :) !

  26. Charlie this post was fantastic. I had goosebumps from beginning to end. She’s talented, beautiful and deserves our admiration. I love the connection between the two of you and that house is lovely.

  27. Monet@anecdotesandapples.com says:

    Beautiful post. Full of so many connections. I also had goosebumps from beginning to end. The house is just gorgeous. Thank you for sharing! So so glad I found your blog!

  28. What a wonderful story, Charlie. there are so many interesting people with wonderful stories we can know. We just need to be available. Consider how much you’d have lost if you hadn’t made the time to go with Carl and meet Sarah. Sometimes we get wrapped up in ourselves and we don’t make time to spend with others, and we miss out. This was a wonderful very personal story. :-)

  29. Joanne (eats well with others) says:

    What a crazy coincidence! And what wonderful stories you evoked from her. I find other people to be so interesting.

  30. Jed Gray (sportsglutton) says:

    As a historian of the period, it always wonderful to hear the positive stories that have emerged from the horror of the time. Thanks for sharing Charlie and have a wonderful weekend.

  31. What a wonderful story of coincidence and family resilience. I’m so glad fate brought you guys together. :)

  32. GourmetGetaway says:

    What an amazing story and life, I had chills reading it.

  33. Wow I loved this and sign me up for a copy of the book!!

  34. Norma Chang says:

    What a heart warming story. One never knows what destiny has in store, what tomorrow will bring. Wishing Sarah success with her book.
    Norma Chang, http://gardentowok.com/

  35. Minnie Gupta says:

    What a beautiful story. And you have a gift of telling stories Charlie…you put so much in with so few words…..my heart warmed reading this.

  36. lovely story thanks for sharing

  37. Jenny @ Ichigo Shortcake says:

    That is a really amazing coincidence, I’m sure it was very exciting to find out! Sarah sounds like an equally amazing person with lovely parents as well. Thanks for sharing this story with us. :)

  38. Claire @ Claire K Creations says:

    What a wonderful story Charlie. It’s a small world isn’t it?
    It’s just unbelievable what some people have been through.

  39. That’s a very moving story Charlie ~ I have read so many stories and have also met Holocaust survivors but it’s never the same when you actually talk to them and they tell you about their stories. It’s such a coincidence that her dad and your great aunt knew each other. He is definitely a generous father to have bought her daughter’s piano teacher a house :) I can only imagine how talented Sarah is to have studied at Juilliard. xox

  40. It truly is a small world. How awesome (in the true sense of the word) that you have gotten to meet and know this Sarah. I am sure that you will let us know when the book is out. I look forward to reading it too.

  41. What an amazing story! I used to play piano many years ago so am in awe of Sarah’s piano playing skills.. And would love to get a copy of her book when she’s done!

  42. Lyndsey@TinySkillet says:

    What a great story!

  43. Barb Bamber says:

    Isn’t it incredible how life brings people together? What a beautiful story, I would be interested in reading that book as well. Such a moving tribute to a piano teacher and mentor.

  44. justonecookbook says:

    Wow… amazing story!!! It’s rare to get to hear this kind of story and I really enjoyed it. You are as always such a great writer. Your writing draw me into the story. Please write another post again when the book is out. It’s going to be a great book to read!

  45. Patricia Villamil says:

    this is truly unbelievable, yet so encouraging. please do post it here when that book becomes available, i hope you get to keep in touch with Sarah. Thanks for a great story!

  46. Mandy - The Complete Cook Book says:

    What a phenomenal story Charlie! :-) Mandy xo

  47. My Kitchen Stories says:

    I swear as we get older the world gets smaller or we are just better at putting the feelers out there ( or talking ?)


  1. [...] the door unexpectedly and I couldn’t wait to find out who they were from.  They were sent by Sarah.  Remember she is the client of Carl’s we took out for dinner who had that amazing life [...]

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