“Buried Rivers: A Spiritual Journey into the Holocaust”

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Also available at Vervante Books.


Buried Rivers Video


My journey began in January, 2005, on a train in Germany, when I felt the presence of spirits who had died in the Holocaust. Decades earlier, I had met a Buddhist teacher, a charismatic Tibetan meditation master named Chögyam Trungpa, Rinpoche, and learned to meditate. Though not very religious, my Jewish survivor parents believed I had betrayed the heritage for which their families had been murdered. A fierce battle followed, led by my uncle who accused me of ‘killing’ my parents. Over 30 years later, these wounded spirits apparently believed my Buddhist training might help them. “If you believe in basic goodness, help us understand how such a thing happened?” they asked. But who was I to answer such a question? Did I have the courage to try? My life had reached a turning point. The following year, 2006, I traveled alone to Poland, the Holocaust’s largest graveyard, and especially to my mother’s city of Łódź, to find an answer while connecting with my family’s history. I returned again in 2008, and in 2009 moved to Łódź for six months, studying Polish at a language school called the “Babel” where I was the only American in a class composed largely of Arabs. With no elders in my family alive to consult, the only clues I had to my family’s past was an account my uncle had dictated before his death about my family’s life before and during the war. IMG_0159Retracing my mother’s and uncle’s steps through Europe and revisiting the places where my ancestors had lived for centuries, I stumbled into a mysterious stream of love—if only I could receive it. Increasingly aware of my own traumatic imprints, I discovered that helping those who died meant facing my own damaged sense of belonging. And that when we open to events previously hidden, or to the darkness we avoid, a transformation occurs that widens our perception and changes us forever. Beyond recovering a lost family history, Buried Rivers reveals powerful connections between spirituality and trauma, and intimately explores family loyalty, religious boundaries, and the invisible blessings of ancestors.

Above: the only existing family photo of my mother (top right), my uncle (bottom right), their parents, and siblings before the war.

Click on any photo below to read excerpts from the book.

First Pages

The story begins on a train in Germany, in January of 2005. Read the opening pages here.

Bench waiting
Six Months in Lodz

Living in my mother’s home town in 2009, I find clues to my family’s past in an uncle’s unpublished memoir.

Bearing Witness at Auschwitz

Read excerpts about visits to Auschwitz and the Bearing Witness Retreat I attended with Zen Peacemakers Bernie Glassman Sensei, Rabbi Ohad Ezrahi and others.

Star of David
Jewish Genealogy in Poland

My memoir describes the research I did, not only on-line and in Polish archives housing physical documents, but also in hidden archives of the heart.

An Interfaith Encounter

In one of the final chapters, interesting conversations and questions arise when I visit a Catholic hermitage near Kielce and befriend its junior priest.

Copyright © 2019  Ellen Korman Mains. All Rights Reserved. 

Contact: Ellen@EllenKormanMains.com

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