Young Tucson girl finding fascination in Holocaust survivor, victim

Young Tucson girl finding fascination in Holocaust survivor, victim
Photos of Ann Frank and family gathered by Odett Grijlava. (Source: Tucson News Now)

TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - At just 12 years old, Odett Grijalva has buried herself in books.

For the last year of her young life it's been all about one book, really, for the 7th grader at La Cima Middle School. She has been pouring over the pages of a harrowing first-hand account of history.

The words have been calling out to her.

"She's my age. I'm her age. We both have some struggles in life. We both have the same personality. She was outgoing and a happy girl. I am too. We both always find the happy things in the saddest times," Odett said.

Sad times that a young girl like her in 2018 shouldn't possibly be able to comprehend: The genocide of millions of people in The Holocaust. It is displayed in the text of a teen, in the form of The Diary of Anne Frank.

But the comprehension has come to life inside Odett's midtown Tucson bedroom, where each picture of Anne Frank and Frank's friends and family tells a story.

What started with one printed-out picture, Getty Images watermark still included, has developed over the last year into a wall and mind full of fascination.

"After reading that book I started researching and getting more books. I would bring like three more books home and my mom would be so amazed. 'You're going to read all them?' I'm like, 'Yes I am.'"

It started at her middle school when, last year in 6th grade, they were assigned to read 'I Am Malala,' the non-fiction story of Malala Yousafzai. Yousafzai, a young Pakistani activist, was injured in 2012 by a Taliban gunman who attempted to murder her as retaliation for her activism.

Odett said the book mentioned Anne Frank.

"Something about that name just interested me. She explained a little bit of what happened to her - that she had to go into hiding during World War II and it was very hard and stuff to go through all that. They said that she has a diary and that it's now a book," Odett said. "I decided to go to my library and borrow the book to read it. It took me about two months to read. After I just couldn't believe how a girl my age in that time had to struggle through all that. Couldn't go outside. Couldn't do all those things that I can do now, you know. I can go outside anytime. She couldn't. For two years."

Her parents have been ill-prepared for the level of enthusiasm in her learning.

"Every day she comes and asks questions," said Shantal Grijalva, her mother.

It's why they're thankful to have the real-life history coming to their hometown.

The story that captivated the world for decades is making its way to southern Arizona.

On Sunday, February 18, Chabad Tucson will be hosting an opportunity for the community to meet and hear the story of a featured speaker and author, Eva Schloss, a Holocaust survivor and stepsister of Anne Frank. the event is being held in the 1,100-seat Tucson High School auditorium and tickets are still available here: https://chabadtucsoncom.clhosting.org/tools/events/register_cdo/eventid/7093

"Eva Schloss coming here will be bringing it to life and making it realistic and tangible for us to understand that it was regular people, just as ourselves, it was a regular society if you will that caused such great harm and that such great people were able to survive," said Rabbi Yehuda Ceitlin, Chabad Tucson's Outreach Director.

The Grijalva's will excitedly be there, when Schloss shares the story of her and her step-sister.

"What fascinates them about Anne Frank is that it was someone their age who shares their thoughts, their struggles, their wishes, their dreams," Rabbi Ceitlin said. "To learn about such a horrible event in history through her eyes is something that's easier for consumption but also very relatable to them."

Odett sees Schloss as a rock star.

"Like she's going to go see KISS," her mother said.

"I think she sees it as close to Anne Frank as you can get," said her father, Daniel Grijalva. "You can almost smell her through her stepsister. She feels that connection."

It's another connection to add to her collection.

"She kind of did survive the war in a way. She survived it through her diary, basically. Her diary gave a voice to all those people that weren't able to speak up in those times," Odett said. "My dad would say, 'Doing all this research and putting all these pictures is basically keeping her spirit alive.'"

Kindred spirits - 75 years later.

WANT MORE? Download the Tucson News Now app for Apple and Android devices.

Copyright 2018 Tucson News Now. All rights reserved.