I grew up without grandparents, and I've devoted much of my life to a passion, bordering on obsession, to understand why. I do so by exploring my parents' lives, and by accumulating documents and photographs that help to explain or provide context.
I've spoken widely about my parents, whose lives I chronicled in three cover stories in the Philadelphia Inquirer's Sunday magazine -- two Mother's Day stories in 1983 and 1995, and one about my father in April 1985.
My Mother's Day 1983 article, A Bird in the Wind, which appeared five months after my mother's death, was the first English-language account of her 14-month survival with nine other Jews in the sewers beneath the Nazi-occupied city of Lviv. The Polish director Agnieszka Holland's Oscar-nominated 2011 movie "In Darkness" was about this survival story.
My 1985 article Journey To My Father's Holocaust, in which I traveled with my father to Auschwitz and Buchenwald and other places of his past, was a finalist for the 1986 Pulitzer Prize in feature writing and won awards from the Overseas Press Club of America and the Associated Press Managing Editors of Pennsylvania.
In 1986, at a dinner of the American Gathering of Jewish Holocaust Survivors in the grand ballroom of the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York, hundreds of survivors gave me a standing ovation for a spoken letter to my late mother.
After the collapse of the Soviet Union, my mother's hometown in Ukraine became accessible to the West, and in 1992 my wife and I were the first Jews in a generation to visit. Our presence in Turka-nad-Stryjem yielded 15 hours of film footage, a half-hour TV documentary produced and directed by Janine Jaquet Biden, "Visiting the Past," and my Mother's Day 1995 article Speaking for the ghosts: A story for my mother.
I've been a senior editor at CNN.com in Atlanta, and a reporter at the Kansas City Star and the Wilmington News-Journal. I reported throughout the Middle East for Universal Press Syndicate during the Iranian revolution in 1979. My articles have appeared in the Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Baltimore Sun, and many other publications. I hold bachelor's and master's degrees from the University of Missouri School of Journalism. In 2005, I taught journalism at Beijing Foreign Studies University in China.
My journey entered a new realm on Aug. 28, 2015. While cleaning out my childhood home in Wilmington, Delaware, I made an exciting discovery: Four notebooks filled with Polish poetry and prose written by my mother while she hid in the sewers from June 1, 1943, until Lviv was liberated at the end of July 1944. Stay tuned for new developments in the translation and publication of this material.
As a proud American who has benefited from my parents' successes in achieving their dreams, I have not been shy about voicing my feelings about the direction of my country.
In July 2016, just before the Republicans nominated Donald Trump for president at their convention in Cleveland, I expressed concerns about Trump in an opinion piece published in the Inquirer. I referred to articles I had written in 1988 that helped lead to the departure of Nazi-affiliated émigrés from the Bush-Quayle campaign. Those articles are found in a section of this website.
On Jan. 27, 2021, three weeks after Trump supporters stormed the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., the Inquirer published another opinion piece in which I wrote it was not wrong to compare Trump and his followers to Hitler and his followers.
I live in Philadelphia with my wife, Ronda B. Goldfein, executive director of the AIDS Law Project of Pennsylvania and vice president of Safehouse, a nonprofit corporation seeking to save lives during the opioid crisis by establishing supervised injection sites. Our 1992 wedding was attended by millions who read about it -- and about my mother -- in the epilogue of James McBride's international bestseller The Color of Water.
Photo by Ed Hille, The Philadelphia Inquirer
On Aug. 28, 2015, while cleaning out my childhood home to prepare it for sale, I found what I had been looking for since my mother died in 1982: Inside a Xerox box packed haphazardly with miscellanea were four notebooks filled with the Polish poetry and prose my mother wrote while hiding from the Nazis in a sewer for 14 months, from June 1, 1943, until the city of Lviv was liberated at the end of July 1944. This photo taken by my wife shows my exhilaration as I stood in the backyard holding the box in which I had just found the buried treasure.
Photo by Ronda Goldfein
These four notebooks were near the bottom of the box, in this envelope marked in pencil "Kanal" (Polish for sewer) along with this piece of fabric, apparently a man's handkerchief. At the very bottom of the box, I also found a white plastic bag with the small, handwritten word in English: "HOME." Inside was a manila folder containing the papers my mother scooped up from the floor of her childhood home in the town of Turka-nad-Stryjem when she visited there after liberation. We also have the mezuza she took from the front door that day.
Photo by David Lee Preston