Esperanto
Author: David Poulson


Lidia - part two

Author: David Poulson
Published on: March 17, 2000

Lidia Finds a Vocation

At the beginning of 1925, Lidia Zamenhof, not yet twenty one years old, must have been unhappy and confused. Both of her parents were dead, her brother and sister were both much older and working very hard at their medical practices, and the orthodox Jewish faith had no more appeal to her than it had had to her father. In her final year of study, she had already decided that she did not wish to practice law having decided several years earlier that she would not continue the medical tradition followed by so many members of the Zamenhof family. She had no really close friends of the opposite sex and never seems to have shown any inclination to marry and raise a family.

Since her father's death in 1917, however, she had become more and more committed to carrying on his life's work. The Esperanto movement was going to be Lidia's new family and promoting the Esperanto language was going to be her new career. Wendy Heller has located an interesting comment from Isaj Dratwer, a contemporary and earlier biographer of Lidia. He said, "When we were young men, we Esperantists used to say that Lidia Zamenhof had only only one lover, and that was the Esperanto language."

Before Lidia took her final exams in 1925 she attended the 17th International Esperanto Conference which took place during the first two weeks of August in Geneva. Her sister Zofia was also present. It was on this occasion that Lidia, for the first time, heard about the Bahai faith. She accepted, somewhat reluctantly, an invitation to go to a meeting at the office of the International Bahai Bureau at which the main speaker, a German Esperantist named Dr Adelbert Muhlschlegel described the main principles of Bahai. About that meeting Lidia said later: "because I only went out of politeness, I didn't pay much attention to what went on. The words went in at one ear and out at the other. Soon after I left Geneva, I forgot all about it."

However, although the meeting made little impression on Lidia, she herself made a lasting impression on one of the other speakers at that meeting.

Martha Root

Wendy Heller described Martha Root in these words.

"A small plain-looking woman of fifty-three who dressed somewhat eccentrically, Martha Root often impressed people at first as a 'little mouse.' But her dynamic spirit and sincerity drew people to her. In 1914 she had resigned her position as society editor of a Pittsburgh newspaper in order to travel as a freelance foreign correspondent, and for some years she had dedicated her life to travelling the world, most often alone, lecturing and writing about the Bahai faith. Although she was often illshe kept up a seemingly inhuman pace against the disease which was inexorably consuming her body: since 1912 she had known that she had cancer ... Martha Root had been studying Esperanto over the years, knowing that it would help in her travels (but) although her original interest in Esperanto had been as a means of attracting people to the Bahai teachings, she became a fervent Esperantist."

Martha's first impression of Lidia was that,"she seemed so sad," and "I always wished that she could know the joy of Abdul-Baha's life." She wanted to get to know Lidia better and her opportunity came the following year.

In April 1926, after long delays, a monument for Dr Zamenhof's grave was finally ready. The Esperanto movement had known about this monument, which was made in Scotland, for some time and so when a firm date for the unveiling ceremony was finally fixed, Martha Root sent a telegram to Lidia asking for permission to speak on that occasion. Lidia was not able to provide that permission herself: she passed on the request to the group of people who were responsible for organizing the event. They agreed, however, and Martha came to Warsaw, delivered her speech, and stayed for a further two weeks.

During that time, she was a guest of the Zamenhof family and began to talk about her faith with a skeptical Lidia, who was at this time firmly committed to the philosophy which her father had developed over the years. Zamenhof called this philosophy "Homarismo," and he always maintained that it reflected "la interna ideo" of Esperanto.

In the next topic article I will compare these ideas and take the story of Lidia a little further. In the meantime, useful introductions to Bahai, one in Esperanto and one in English, can be found at these links:

http://www.warble.com/Bahai/BasicFacts/index.html

(to be continued)

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