Storyteller Shows Audience Human Side of Tale

By Jason Cato

Mar 26, 2004

Rock Hill, S.C. – Each in their own way, the packed audience followed along with the tale of love rediscovered years after the Holocaust.

Herman, a Polish Jew, spent much of his childhood and teenage years in Nazi concentration camps during World War II. He survived largely thanks to the help of an angel his deceased mother promised would visit one night in a dream. That angel turned out to be a young girl on the outside. She brought him food everyday, sneaking it over the fence. First it was a red apple, then scraps of stale bread. Their ritual continued for seven months.

When Herman was eventually sent to another camp, the young couple shared a tearful good-bye.

The group of about 100 adults hung on every word Thursday at the Baxter Hood Center as world-renowned storyteller Connie Regan-Blake continued.

Years later, after immigrating to New York city, a still thin, but grown-up Herman sat in the back seat of a car on a blind date with a girl from his native Poland. He was on the left, wearing neatly pressed black pants and a starched white shirt; she was on the right, clutching a red carnation Herman brought her that was a shade off from the color of her dress.

Being about the same age and from the same area of Eastern Europe, Herman and Roma talked about the war and where they’d been. As Herman began listing off the places he’d been held, Roma stared in disbelief.

“Did a young girl throw food to you over the fence?” she asked.

“Yes. How could you know that?” he replied.

“Did you tell that girl not to come back?” she asked.

Yes, Herman answered. His mother had visited again during a dream a few days earlier to ask if he’d found his angel. Now he had.

“I was that girl,” Roma said.

Everyone heard the same story, but likely saw a different image in his or her head.

“I think storytelling is more than words,” Regan-Blake of Asheville, N.C., said in an interview before taking the stage as part of the ninth Patchwork Tales Storytelling Festival hosted annually by the York County Library. “I think it’s images. And it’s personal, because it’s your image.”

The storytelling festival continues through Saturday with various events throughout the area. Organizer Diane Williams said there are events for everyone, from children to adults, with plenty to learn and enjoy for everyone who attends.

“Books and reading is the bottom line,” Williams said. “It’s to make storytelling and literature alive in our community.”

Regan-Blake performed at the first National Storytelling Festival in Jonesborough, Tenn., the grandma of U.S. storytelling festivals, and has repeated the feat every year since. This October will be her 33rd appearance. Overall, she’s performed in 46 states and 14 countries.

“I think storytelling is what’s the same about all humans,” she said. “We’ve all told stories and heard stories.”

Fellow storyteller Jackson Gillman of New England called storytelling a universal art form performed by everyone, everyday.

“It’s not an intimidating craft,” Gillman said. “We practice. But everyone has stories and everyone has the ability to be powerful, effective storytellers. It’s what makes us human.”

Contact Jason Cato at 329-4071 or jcato@heraldonline.com.

Copyright The Herald