"Was I wrong?" Livia asked, now 70 years afterward, as she stood before one of many audiences she has addressed all over the world. Perhaps I read her wrong, but I had a sense she wasn't just trying to spark some decision. The question seemed to come from an unresolved insecurity.
At the age of 6, when their Hungarian oppressors had put out a decree that all Jews should wear the yellow star on EVERY single garment they wore, this little girl quietly rebelled. She wasn't going to play their game! Yet every other member of her family--all of them older-- did.
Livia did wear the stars to school, but would walk as close to the buildings as possible so her star wouldn't be readily visible to the public. From the moment of the decree until they were put into train cars seven years later, Livia chose to give up many of the joys of her childhood and to isolate herself in her home, the only place where a star was not required.
"How would YOU feel?" she asked the audience, in an attempt to get us to formulate a reply to the first question. "I felt so ashamed," she continued.
Soon, very timidly, some on the lower section began to raise their hands and to speak. They could understand why a little girl would make such a choice.
I raised my hand, too far away and perhaps too late for her to acknowledge practically. So I may never find a way to say what I wanted to say. It is this: "Livia, you were courageous and making a choice to be different in a way that hurt you, but made a statement to the world through your testimony today!" That's the life of a rebel. Whether through a hunger strike or a decision not to follow along with the obedient. I'm sorry for what it cost you, but I thank you for your courage."