Originally created 04/23/98

Butterfly memorial to Holocaust children almost done



MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. -- Johanna Borovicka took her hands away from the paper butterflies stretched along the length of colorful ribbon and sat motionless.

Operation Butterfly had caused ripples to move across her well of emotions and she couldn't prevent the tears from clouding her eyes.

This week, sadness and gladness have had equal roles as volunteers of the Baha'i faith worked with people of Jewish faith to memorialize the 1.2 million children who died in the Holocaust.

The Chabad Academy in Myrtle Beach was transformed from a school to a full-fledged butterfly workshop where hope reverberated with every mention of what could have been and what never should happen again.

"I never expected this," said Eleanor Schiller, a teacher at Chabad, as she weeded her way through heaps of letters sent from around the globe.

"This" is the more than 1.2 million butterflies made by folks in Israel, Brazil, Canada and several other countries.

"This" is the boxes and boxes of letters and note cards announcing the support and prayers for every person who is involved in the school's massive undertaking.

By Thursday on Yom Hashoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day, the butterflies will take over the entire field next to the school.

The first of the butterflies, thousands of them, were displayed in the field under seven sheets of plastic Tuesday. Red bricks were placed at the corners of the plastic to hold the ground display in place.

Weather worries aside, volunteers said come rain or shine their butterflies will soar.

"We will get the butterflies onto the field, even if we have to work through the night," said Hugo Schiller, a Holocaust survivor.

A barbed-wire fence, which symbolically represents the fences at death camps where the Jewish children perished, is in place.

Playground equipment also has been set up in preparation for Yom Hashoah, a reminder of where the Holocaust children should have been.

In January, teacher Eleanor Schiller and her students began coloring paper butterflies to remember the children who died during World War II.

From 1933-45, more than 6 million Jews, along with Slavs, Gypsies, the mentally ill and people with handicaps, were murdered by Nazis because they were considered worthless and dispensable.

When all of the butterflies have been placed in the field, friends of Operation Butterfly hope the world will learn the depth of a tragedy that robbed a people of so much promise.

Hugo Schiller a Holocaust survivor,still remembers the name of the boy who longed to join his parents in Gurs, France, but died in a death camp.

Memories and stories like his are what propelled others outside of the Jewish faith to join in a cause to remember the dead children, hoping that book of history will forever remain closed.

"These butterflies are the spirits of children who are with us today," said Linda Lyerly, a Baha'i volunteer.

About a dozen Baha'is came to help with Operation Butterfly as a part of their outreach during the holiest celebration of their faith known as Ridvan. The 12-day holiday stresses togetherness and outreach.

In addition to the local groups, various churches, synagogues, banks, nursing homes, schools and other organizations have helped in some way.

Even folks from as far way as Australia sent butterflies.

Shayndel Samuel, deputy principal of Jewish studies at The King David School in Australia, told Eleanor Schiller in her letter dated April 3 that "The children of The King David School, Magid Campus, enthusiastically coloured in your paper butterflies."

And although the school has surpassed its goal of 1.2 million butterflies, they keep coming.

The walls of Chabad Academy have been plastered with plastic and paper butterflies, as well as newspaper articles showing students from different states working on butterflies for the academy.

And upstairs in Tom O'Dare's classroom, 13-year-old Michael Hymanson, a Chabad student, and Windy Rackit, a Baha'i, spent hours cutting away butterflies not yet glued to tongue depressors or stapled to thick cloth ribbons.

Shahnaz Kintz, 12, and Chevon Gore, 11, both Baha'i volunteers, worked steadily, stapling about 180 butterflies to each 10-yard ribbon.

"Don't kill kids, don't kill kids," wrote an unknown child on a butterfly they stapled. And yet another read, "If you hurt a butterfly, you will hurt a child."

"I'm angry and confused," said 15-year-old Catherine Borovicka, daughter of Johanna Borovicka. "I'm angry because we have to do this, and I'm confused because people ignored what was going on. But because of all these butterflies, I know people realize we are all family. They care, and the Holocaust will never happen again."