Jewish Tennis Star Diego Schwartzman Highlights Lessons From Family’s Holocaust History
Argentinian-Jewish pro-tennis star Diego Schwartzman, who made it to the fourth round of the Australian Open over the weekend, wrote about his family’s Holocaust history in an essay published online last Friday.
Schwartzman began by asserting that his height of 5’7″ — considered short for a professional player, — did not define him as an athlete. He also highlighted the financial difficulties his family faced in Argentina when he was younger and talked about how his parents struggled to pay for him to play tennis. His mother would sell bracelets in between his matches to help make extra money, he said.
But, he added, “all of that pales into comparison to what my ancestors went through.”
“I have Jewish roots, and my great grandfather on my mom’s side, who lived in Poland, was put on a train to a concentration camp during the Holocaust,” he continued. “The coupling that connected two of the train’s cars somehow broke. Part of the train kept going, and the other stayed behind. That allowed everyone trapped inside, including my great grandfather, to run for their lives. Luckily, he made it without being caught. Just thinking about it makes me realize how lives can change in a heartbeat.”
Schwartzman’s great-grandfather eventually brought his family to Argentina by boat. When they arrived they only spoke Yiddish. The athlete’s family on his father’s side, who were originally from Russia, also arrived in Argentina by boat. Schwartzman said it was not easy for his family to “totally change their lives after the war, but they did.”
“From my ancestor escaping a train on its way to a concentration camp to staying in tiny hotel rooms and selling bracelets, I consider myself lucky,” he added. “But everyone has a story. I’m not the only one who has faced adversity. It’s about not letting the tough moments drag you down, and using them as motivation to help you turn a bad situation into something good.”
“I never imagined my career being where it is now. But no matter what I’ve dealt with, I’ve always worked hard, and I think pushing through those hurdles has made me a better competitor and an even better person. If I can get this far, so can you. Believe in yourself no matter what, give everything you have and one day — even if you’re 5’7″ — you can accomplish your dreams too.”