JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – On Holocaust Remembrance Day, families all over the world shared stories of survival.
Jacksonville resident Lee Gwozdz is working on a screenplay about his parents' love story amid their horrifying experience as Nazi concentration camp prisoners during World War II.
Gwozdz and his family have been working on the project for several years. His mother, Eugina Gwozdz, was a survivor of many concentration camps from 1941 until 1945, including Auschwitz.
Lee Gwozdz has a small heart that was carved by his father, Feliks Gwozdz, who used the sole of his Plaszow concentration camp boot to create the heart for his wife. (See below.)
Lee Gwozdz said the story is special because it survived years of horror during the Holocaust. It was recently recovered as Lee Gwozdz’s mother sat down for a testimony video, sharing her story.
"There’s some video testimony that proves that the Holocaust really happened. I have items here that show it was truly a love story that kept my parents alive. The reason I’m here today," Lee Gwozdz said.
Eugina Gwozdz was identified by a tattooed combination of letters and numbers during her days at Auschwitz, a concentration camp in Poland during WWII. Her husband was in Dachau, a camp in southern Germany. A Nazi guard passed the heart from Feliks Gwozdz to his wife.
“My dad met him and said, ‘Give this to my wife in Auschwitz,’ and he did,” Lee Gwozdz said. “He delivered it to my mom, and she kept it close to her through seven concentration camps.”
Eugina and Feliks Gwozdz later met up, gaining United States citizenship in Texas.
The couple promised to keep their experiences under wraps — until later.
Eugina Gwozdz shared her first testimony of survival before her passing in the early 2000s.
Lee Gwozdz said that in 1999, Steven Spielberg and the Shoah Foundation filmed his mother's and aunts' testimony of their experience before, during and after the war.
The proposed title for the future film is “The Heart of Sole - A Holocaust Story of Music, Survival, and Love."
“I have it all ingrained in my brain, and now it’s all being written out."
Gwozdz said he hopes his family's story will be ready for screenplay scripting by next year.