I’ve heard the story of how great grandpa Bates escaped, and I’ve marveled at his courage in the face of danger. I’ve wondered how he survived, and I’ve drawn parallels between him and one of my favorite comic book heroes—but not until now have I thought about the person who saved him.
It’s an ordinary day, and yet, I stumble across something extraordinary on my Pinterest feed. You see, I like random facts and have saved countless ones, but never did I think I would come across one that could be a part of my family history.
It was the picture that made me tap on it— a statue of a priest in front of a wall. The caption: “Hugh O’Flaherty, a priest who saved the lives of 6500 allied soldiers and Jews during WWII by hiding them in farms, homes and convents. He was a master at disguises and evaded capture by the Gestapo many times earning him the nickname, ‘Scarlet Pimpernel of the Vatican’”. Everything I cared about was that sentence. Hugh O’Flaherty, a priest, saved, allied soldiers, hiding them in farms.
You see, my great grandpa escaped a prisoner of war camp during WWII. He lived on a farm and was taken there by a priest. He lived like an animal but he survived. For years, we have wondered and searched for that priest and yet here on my screen, on a typical Wednesday in October 2017, was quite possibly, the answer to a roughly 75-year-old question.
You see, without this man, who my family and I know believe to be Father O’Flaherty, I wouldn’t be here today. My grandmother and her siblings wouldn’t have been born, my dad and his brother wouldn’t have had childhoods, and my twin sister and I wouldn’t have the opportunities we do today.
You see, sitting here on October 18th, 2017, this seemly normal day, I sit on my bed looking at this picture on Pinterest, and at this extraordinary coincidence, to find a piece of me and my family history among the seemingly random facts. I found a part of myself. One that I always assumed would go undefined, for it was lost in time, but I have it in my hands, and as I look at it I see, the unsung hero that lead to me.