Simon Trakinski, Lintz Austria
Photographed by Mitch Braff in September of 2001
Simon Trakinski was born in Vilna, Lithuania, in 1925. Like many others, his family fled to the east when the war began in 1939, seeking refuge in the Russian village of Smorgon. When the Germans invaded Russia in 1941, Smorgon was occupied and all the village's Jews were forced into the ghetto.
As the war continued, Simon left the partisans to work for the Soviet government as a schoolteacher in a remote Russian village. When the war ended and the "iron curtain" began to descend across Eastern Europe, Simon returned to Poland and smuggled himself into the West. He spent three years in Austria attempting to immigrate to the U.S., before finally being allowed to enter in 1948.
Simon died on January 2, 2009 surrounded by his loving family at his home in New York.