Peer Pays Respects In Katowice
Published April 09, 2013 12:00
KATOWICE, Poland - Some players add personal touches to their tennis outfits - bracelets, necklaces, wristbands - but sometimes these personal touches have deeper meaning, and in Shahar Peer's case, the ribbon she wore in Katowice on Monday had just about as deep a meaning as humanly possible.
Holocaust Remembrance Day, or Yom HaShoah, began Sunday evening and lasted until Monday evening, and Peer had a black ribbon on the right side of her top as she played in Katowice.
"Any year when I'm playing on this day I always wear a black band," Peer said on Monday. "This day is very meaningful. My grandparents were in the Holocaust. My grandfather isn't alive now but my grandmother is - she didn't talk about it for a long time but one day my sister had to do a school project and she told us stories about how she was in -20 temperatures in the snow for weeks, wearing only a dress and getting nothing to eat besides a small piece of bread once every few days. But she survived it - it's unbelievable. My father and I were talking about it yesterday, how crazy it is that these things happened, and how crazy it is that some people even managed to survive through it.
"To me, this day reminds us about the people who survived as well as the people who didn't. The survivors won't be alive forever - many of them are over 80 years old now. But in Israel and around the world we're trying to remember them always, and every year I try to be with them in my heart."
Peer has always shown her support for such causes - three years ago she led the March of the Living, where thousands of participants march silently from Auschwitz to Birkenau the same day.
"The March of the Living is going on now, not far away from here," Peer added. "In 2010 I was leading that along with my mother and grandmother - three generations. It was overwhelming. And about a week later we have a memorial day for soldiers who died in wars in Israel, so I wear a ribbon then too.
"These causes are very important and I'm proud to support them however I can."
What else happens on Holocaust Remembrance Day? "At 10 o'clock Israel time we have two minutes where we stand and they sound sirens - we're one hour behind here, so I finished my practice a few minutes before 9 and I was able to stand for those two minutes. Also I sent my grandma a text message. It was a touching one - even I had some tears in my eyes. She didn't reply because she doesn't know how, but she called my mom and was very happy. I'll talk to my mom later, too."
Unfortunately, the personal touch hasn't brought Peer too much luck on the tennis court.
"It's not every year I play on this day, but the thing is I always lose. I remember in 2011, I played on this day in Madrid and lost to Alisa Kleybanova. It's exactly the opposite of what I hope for!"
Of course, there's a much bigger implication.
"My dad says there's a phrase people say around this time, 'Never Again', reminding everyone around the world this will never happen again, that we have a country, and that we can protect ourselves."
Peer would lose that qualifying match on Monday, but she made it into the main draw as a lucky loser and - being the survivor she is - battled over three hours to win her first round match on Tuesday.