George Beykovsky came to Snohomish County by way of Ecuador, but his story is neither of here nor there.
The 78-year-old Everett man is a Holocaust survivor.
He never spent time in a concentration camp, but his family’s flight from Slovakia in 1939 is one example of how the diaspora of Jews during World War II affected countless people.
While researching his family’s history, he has tracked down and contacted relatives in Canada, in Great Britain, and many in Israel.
“They all scattered,” he said.
It’s a story Beykovsky has only been telling since the 2006 shootings at the Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle. After gunman Naveed Afzal Haq’s rampage injured several people and killed one woman, Beykovsky decided to make a donation to the Washington State Holocaust Education Resource Center.
The nonprofit organization presents speakers and exhibits to schools and other groups. Its aim is to foster education about the systematic murder of more than 6 million Jews by the Nazis before and during World War II.
When we met for lunch Thursday, Beykovsky said he had long been used to reading news of violence in places like Tel Aviv. The Seattle shootings, he said, “kind of jarred something in me.”
His donation to the Holocaust education organization was welcomed, Beykovsky said, but when he delivered his check, the organization wanted more. Beykovsky said a director there made a request. “She said, ‘Tell me your story,’ ” Beykovsky said. “They wanted me to talk about my life as a consequence of the Holocaust.”
It’s a story I was lucky enough to hear when Beykovsky spoke to the Everett Woman’s Book Club on Feb. 8 at the Everett Public Library. That day, Beykovsky began his talk by lighting a small candle — “to remember all those in my family who died,” he said.
He was only 8 when his family fled Europe. He was raised on a farm in the Czech province of Slovakia, an area that’s now the Slovak Republic.
As Adolf Hitler’s Germany gained control of Austria and Czechoslovakia in 1938 and ‘39, Beykovksy said his father decided the family had to get out. In August of 1939, with a passport his father acquired as an agronomist who could lend expertise to Ecuador, Victor Beykovsky took his wife, Gabrielle, and sons George and Tom for two days on a train, and then on a ship to Guayaquil.
In Ecuador, the family accustomed to dining on linen tablecloths found homes with dirt floors.
Amazingly, Beykovsky said his parents never told him of his Jewish ancestry. His mother’s mother, a woman named Emy, was Jewish. His grandmother refused to leave Europe with her daughter and the rest of the family. The last record found of her was at Terrazine, a distribution camp outside Prague from which Jews were sent to other camps, Beykovsky said.
“My mother begged her to come, but she didn’t see why anybody would want to harm a 75-year-old woman,” he said.
Beykovsky said his parents never made friends in Ecuador and that he did poorly in school and never fit in. The rest of his family stayed in South America. His father died in 1975, and his mother moved to Guatemala, where his brother still lives. His mother died in 2004.
He came to the United States in 1957, first to Florida. He joined the Air Force and served at Paine Field — which is how he found Snohomish County. In 1962, he became a U.S. citizen.
After his military service as a machinist, he worked at Western Gear in Everett, and then for the Boeing Co. He retired in 1997.
Divorced, Beykovsky has three sons, seven grandchildren and one great-grandchild. He isn’t Jewish, and is now involved with the Evergreen Unitarian Universalist Fellowship. “It’s my second home,” he said.
Through research and travel, he has toiled doggedly to learn his family’s history, and still the search continues.
Keeping the story alive is now his life’s work.
“I’m the one who provides the record,” Beykovksy said. “I’m the keeper of the data.”
Julie Muhlstein: 425-339-3460, firstname.lastname@example.org.