Finding Inspiration in Anne Frank During the COVID-19 Crisis


By Lisa Shenkle

There once was a girl who, along with her family and friends, had to self-isolate. A deadly presence threatened their lives, and they knew there was no other way to avoid presumptive torture and death.

She was just 13 years old and she lived with seven other individuals in about 500 square feet. She knew if she compromised herself, she compromised the lives of seven others.

When she was forced to live this way, due to imminent threats, she remained positive in spite of the fact that all but one window was blacked out. Every movement was measured. Freedom, except in their own minds, was stolen from them. No grocery shopping, no phone calls, no bike riding. She chose to use this time to write.

I have a postcard of Anne Frank’s diary. It’s not in particularly great shape because I’ve kept it with me and, instead of preserving it, I use it as a reminder that I can handle most anything. I read “The Diary of a Young Girl” by Anne Frank when I was about 12 years old, and then I read it, directly, two more times.

“Dear Kitty …”

For a teenager to live in an annex for two years, to find comfort in her own words and reflections when Nazis and Nazi spies were just outside, is remarkable. Most of us would have lost our minds and put everyone, even those who helped to hide us, at great risk.

A few years ago I was in Amsterdam, tagging along on a business trip with my husband Rick. On a moderately chilly day, in a relentless downpour, I navigated my way to the Anne Frank House. I waited in line under my umbrella next to a 20-something young man from Israel who had come to Amsterdam, specifically, to see the museum. I saw firsthand the place where she lived, in isolation, for two years, where she crafted her words of hope for the future. This postcard of the diary, which I read as a book so many years ago, keeps me in check.

So, if you’re feeling sad, you’re not alone — we are all feeling pretty low right now. If you’re feeling vulnerable, think about Anne Frank, who was vulnerable every moment of every day while being hunted. We can take walks, work in our gardens, cook new recipes, read the books we’ve been “intending” to. We can take online classes, have technology to interface with colleagues, family, and friends. It’s not easy, but we are doing this together for the safety of our community and families. If Anne Frank, and seven others, could live in less than 500 square feet for two years, we can do this.

Stay safe, stay well. Let’s be here for one another.

Lisa Shenkle of Lisa PR Studio is a writer, publicist, and founder of Penn2Pratt (on Facebook), a repository of stories and information about life along the Baltimore-DC corridor.

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