Esperanto
Author: David Poulson


Lidia

Author: David Poulson
Published on: March 3, 2000

Introductory note for new visitors to the Esperanto Topic.

If you have only just begun to take an interest in Esperanto and wish to know some basic information about this fascinating subject, please start your reading at the first article of this series. Having already completed 54 articles, I am now at the stage of writing articles for those readers who have learned quite a lot about the Esperanto language and movement already, and who are now wanting to find out more than just the basic introductory information.

______________________________________________________ URGENT ANNOUNCEMENT!

Due to changes in my personal circumstances I may soon be unable to produce any more articles for the Esperanto Topic. If anyone reading this would like to take over from me as Contributing Editor, I would be grateful if they could get in touch so that we can begin to consider how to effect a changeover if necessary. Thank you.

I would also welcome offers from anyone who would like to write, either wholly or in part, an article about something or somebody related to Esperanto. _________________________________________________________

Introduction

In 1985 a biography of Lidia Zamenhof, written by Wendy Heller, was published in England. (For full bibliographical details, see below). It was reviewed that year in the September-October issue of La Brita Esperantisto by William Auld, who wrote:

"I found this new book by Wendy Heller both fascinating and inspiring. Sad to confess, I previously had only the haziest idea of Lidia and her work, and there must be many other Esperantists, particularly those younger than myself, who don't really know very much about Esperanto in the important years between the wars and don't, of course, remember what life was like then. This book will certainly enlighten them."

Bill Auld is no stranger to readers of this topic: he has already been described as a very talented writer, editor, teacher, and tireless activist in the Esperanto movement.

He also owns a very large personal library of Esperanto texts so if this very well-informed fellow confesses to knowing very little about Lidia, I'm sure he is correct in his belief that many other people don't know her story either.

But is it a story worth telling, you may be wondering? Well, judge for yourself, but I think it is. And besides, as you will see, talking about Lidia Zamenhof will eventually send me off in some unexpected and interesting directions. This story, which starts in Poland, will ultimately lead to Japan and, once I find myself in the Far East ... well, you'll see.

Lidia

When Lidia Zamenhof was born on the 29th of January, 1904, her mother was 40 years old, her father was 44, and her brother and sister were already in their late teens. Adam went to the University of Lausanne in Switzerland to study medicine when Lidia was only two years old and Zofia followed the next year. (Polish Jews who wished to become doctors often were obliged to study outside the Russian Empire.) Throughout her short life, Lidia did not have much contact with her brother and sister and, although she enjoyed her loving parent's undivided attention, her father's health had already begun to deteriorate. Klara Zamenhof wrote to a friend in 1908, "My husband's health would be better if he could rest even a little, but unfortunately he is always working very hard...He still cannot walk so he always sits at home at his writing desk." Lidia herself wrote a touching description of her own recollection of the way her father used to work into the night at his correspondence, journalism and translations.

"(My father's typewriter) stood on a little oak table near the window in our dining room. In the evenings it was pushed toward the light of the lamp that hung over the table. In the daytime it worked only a few hours but its real life began in the evenings. The clatter of its little keys was almost a lullaby for me; something seemed missing when it was silent.

I hardly remember the time when it took up its place in our house. Years flowed by - it always worked on tirelessly, because it was not only a machine but almost a friend to my father. A never-impatient, never-despairing friend, always faithful, always hopeful."

Possibly as a consequence of Zamenhof's failing health and huge workload, he was unsuccessful in his efforts to teach Esperanto to his youngest daughter. She stubbornly refused to learn it and it was not until 1913 that Klara Zamenhof found a solution to this problem.

In that year, the International Esperanto Conference was going to be held in Berne, Switzerland. Lidia was told that she would be able to attend the conference with her parents, and get a chance to see her big brother and sister, provided she was able to speak Esperanto. This type of motivation worked. After six weeks study, Lidia had learned enough Esperanto to satisfy her mother and the whole family went off to Switzerland. Unfortunately, this was the last conference that the family was to attend together. World War One broke out just days before the 1914 conference was due to be held in Paris and Zamenhof died on the 14 of April, 1917. Although a conference was held in San Francisco in 1915, Lidia was not able to attend another Esperanto conference herself until much later. When European conferences resumed in 1920 (at the Hague) Lidia was just completing her high school studies and the following year, aged 17, she enrolled as a law student at the University of Warsaw.

Lidia's studies kept her busy for the next five years, but in 1924 she attended the International Conference in Vienna.

On the 6th of December in the same year, her mother died of cancer.

(To be continued).

Bibliographical note:

HELLER, Wendy.
Lidia: the life of Lidia Zamenhof, daughter of Esperanto. Oxford: George Ronald, 1985

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