I’ve always hated stripes. For the most part, I have never worn them. I don’t care for the pattern aesthetically, but something felt particularly humiliating about stripes to me. This opinion was strongly solidified when, early in high school, I had to borrow a friend’s shirt that happened to be striped. It was one of the most miserable days of my life. I felt emotionally ill while I was wearing it, and my dread slowly turned to rage. It felt so degrading, like my humanity was being stripped away by wearing this shirt. I couldn’t explain these feelings, but that day when I got home I took the shirt off and vowed never to wear stripes again. When asked about this hatred, I would always shrug and reply, “Stripes make me violent. I don’t really know why.”
One night a few months ago, I had a brief flash of the color and pattern of the Holocaust prisoner uniforms, and then I knew. That was why. All of those feelings–the anger and humiliation of being stripped down to something less than human–came back to me in this lifetime just by wearing that shirt. Suddenly everything made so much sense!
It can be hard to remember sometimes. But it didn’t start with the shirt.
It began as disturbing and confusing feelings, out of context, and morphed into phobias and intense revulsion for things that reminded me of something I couldn’t exactly remember. Then it appeared in my art, my writing, my thinking. When I was 19 I had the presence of mind to wonder what was actually going on, and that was when reincarnation went from being an ideological musing to a real thing for me. It took a few more years before I could remember my own past without help.
Now there are the long nights of remembering people’s faces, the medical labs, the disgusting eerie lighting the whole camp seemed to have. It can be hard to swallow sometimes. I struggle with having to see it all again. But then, I realize that it’s something I’ve been remembering my whole life even when I didn’t know it. Now it’s just the context I’m getting.
So let me introduce you to my most recent past life. It is in many ways my hardest, both in terms of what happened specifically to me and the historical event itself.
My name was Irina. I was born in St. Petersburg, Russia, around 1905. My mother died in childbirth, so I was raised by my father, a prominent member of the White movement at the time. We were separated in 1918 and I was sent to an orphanage. At the age of 18, sensing the mounting political tensions, I left for France and worked there as a nurse. As the Nazi party’s influence increased throughout Europe I took part in the resistance and aided others, until I and those I was working with were discovered and taken in for interrogation around 1943 I believe.
I was sent to Buchenwald, enduring a still unfathomable stint of torture before I was released to work in the camp. My death in 1945 came in the middle of the revolt–I had acquired a gun and during the shooting battle I was gunned down myself.
This lifetime had a deep impact on my current life, it goes without saying. It will take a long time to untangle all the pieces and heal. Many details I am not yet ready to face, and the ones I am ready to face are slowly starting to trickle into my consciousness.
This lifetime is also very hard for me to look at. I was a wounded soul going into it and an especially wounded soul coming out. However, I am by no means the only one struggling with trauma from a past life in the Holocaust. The last remaining survivors are starting to thin out, but their voice is now being carried by those of us who did not survive and are back to remember it. A good number of souls reincarnated shortly after their death (baby boomer era), but some of us elected to wait a few decades before coming back. I am here now to heal, to talk about my experiences, and to help others heal.
As I said in that lifetime:
“Once upon a time…I was a nurse. I helped people…I saved lives…Now, in this…disgusting place, all I see is death all around me. …And there’s nothing I can do to stop it. A stark contrast of my life before. And you…even though you are…one of its angels…I just can’t bring myself to hate you, and I don’t know why…I can’t explain it. But, I have this digging feeling that it doesn’t matter why…none of it matters anymore. All that I need to know…all that keeps me going is that once…I was a nurse.”