November 2020, 2nd Edition of “Memory is Our Home” is now available. An insightful memoir in the study of Jewish life starting after WWI, the fate of Polish Jews during WWII and afterword, under Communism. On the backdrop of history stories told by real people paint a full picture of how they managed to survive daily life.
The spirit of freedom is a unique model, it needs to be fiercely protected, because Tyranny, Oppression and Hunger for Power dominates human history. Each generation inherits history from the generation before, it tells us how as a society we behave. History together with the Firsthand accounts are the most powerful.
Six years ago, on the day of my mother’s death, I opened the box containing her notebooks. Writing in Polish, in a shaky hand, my mother filled pages with the memories of her childhood and young adulthood in Warsaw in the interwar years, her struggle to survive as a young Jewish woman in slave labor in the Soviet Interior, during World War II. It is crucial that the story of my mother’s generation is shared with future generations.
Hadassah-Brandeis Institute Award, 2012, “Your mother’s memoir will become an important source in the historical investigations of social history of Eastern European Jewish women and Eastern European Jewish family in the years 1918-1968.”
Professor Kenneth Waltzer, Michigan State University, words of congratulation “belief, determination, and persistence”, he was among a handful of scholars who believed in my book from the very beginning.
“Reads like a Jewish version of Angela’s Ashes….” Aaron Elster, Vice President, Illinois Holocaust Museum and Education Center, child survivor.
Surviving in Stalin’s Russia ironically proved to be for Polish Jews the single best way to escape the catastrophe that engulfed them in Nazi occupied Europe.
Shepherd – Discover the Best Books: Memory is Our Home, Eastern European Jewish History in the years 1918-1968, and the books I picked and why. https://shepherd.com/best-books/eastern-european-jewish-families-from-1918-1968
Explore my new podcast, living testimony of Jewish life. Loss and Remembering–Three Generations in Poland and Russia 1917-1960s with host Ari Barbalat. https://newbooksnetwork.com/memory-is-our-home
Interview, Talk of the Town, WHHI-TV.
Memory is Our Home is written for high school, college age reader in mind and beyond. A rich, living document, a thirty-year account that reveals a vibrant life of my mother’s family and the Eastern European, twentieth-century Jewish history, community and culture. Fascinates from the early paragraphs, rarely has a book been written that pencils a portrait of daily Jewish life during the interwar years in Poland, the Poland that was under Nazi’s murderess grip and the fate of Jews surviving throughout Russia and Uzbekistan during WWII. My mother survived against all ads, in Russia, in the midst of all the tragedy she even experienced love. What followed was a shocking repatriation to the “vast graveyard” and Jewish life under a new kind of oppression, communism, in postwar Poland. Based on my mother’s diary, interwoven with her journals are stories she told to me throughout my life, as well as my own recollections as my family made a new life in the shadows of the Holocaust in Communist Poland after the war and into the late 1960s. By retelling this story I try to shed light on how the Holocaust aftermath affected the next generation, the price my family paid when we said good-bye to the old world and the challenges we faced in America.
It is said that in every survivor’s family, one child is unconsciously chosen to be a “memorial candle,” to carry on the mourning and to dedicate his or her life to the memory of the Shoah. That child takes part in the parents’ emotional world, assumes the burden, and becomes the link between past and future. I realize now that my mother chose me to be that candle.
A rich, living document, a thirty-year account that reveals the life of a vibrant young woman with hopes and dreams for a better world who lived to bear witness to unspeakable suffering and all that she saw, felt, and thought. It is a story of sacrifice, determination, loyalty, and love. It pays tribute to our history and legacy that is now almost forgotten, the vibrant Jewish culture of Eastern Europe that was forever decimated by the events of WWII.
It was while I was studying with Professor Elie Wiesel at the City University of New York that I began to think my mother’s life story might be worthy of being recorded. When I told him about my mother’s life he said, “Your mother must write her story. Future generations must know. You must help her to do it.”
Leaving Communism behind and starting a new life in America at age fifty, it was at great risk to her safety and sanity that she re-entered the world she suppressed for so long in order to write her story. She bravely faced the ghosts she left behind in Warsaw and Russia, bringing them back to life to acknowledge and honor her strength to survive. My mother hesitated to re-enter the memories and bear the pain she suppressed for so long, but in the words of Elie Wiesel “silence is never an option“, so at great risk to her sanity and her health she agreed to commit her memories to paper. She wrote in her native language, Polish, the journals she called Beshert, Meant to Be, to honor her generation that had perished so that future generations have a way to remember her community that flourished before WWII.
Once Poland was the home to the largest Jewish community in Europe. The Jewish culture in Poland flourished for one thousand years. Before WWII, over 3.3 million Jews lived there, making it the second largest Jewish community in the world. WWII destroyed this community completely, devastating their distinctive culture and society. The extent of the loss was so great, so destructive; we know it as the Holocaust, the Shoah.
Thanks for sharing 🙂