Today would have been the 90th birthday of my father, Victor Zorza. Anyone who has read his biography, here, would know that he and I did not always have the easiest of relationships, and I have to often found it hard to acknowledge his contributions and how much I owe him.
He was always pushing, as a journalist to understand and explain the then Communist world, as a hospice advocate to cajole and persuade any and all to expand hospice care, and as a father to have his son get every word perfect. It was not easy for any of us, reader, doctor, public person or son, to take the good in his unceasing advocacy and not push back against the intensity and certainty.
It has taken me a lifetime to understand how he could not have been otherwise, and that I could not have done anything other than protect myself as I did. As as a survivor of both the Holocaust and Stalin’s worker’s paradise, he always felt that the only way he could survive the next crisis was both to be the smartest person in the room, and to be known to be the smartest person in the room, not a prescription for calmness and peace for himself or others. But it often meant that by determination and intellect he did indeed become the become the smartest person in the room, and the room and the world gained. (See Washington Post obituary)
Eleven years ago, at the 10th anniversary of the founding of the Moscow Hospice, several people from around the former Soviet Union who had founded hospices in their own communities told me that my parents’ book on my sister’s death in the second hospice in the world in 1977 was “the only textbook we had.” Not a bad epithet for either of my parents.