Thursday, October 4, 2007

A memoir of courage

I just finished the book, The Children of Willesden Lane; Beyond the Kindertransport: A Memoir of Music, Love, and Survival. In my opinion, this is an incredible book. I had never heard of it until the library began promoting it. The author, Mona Golabek, is a concert pianist and the daughter of the girl (Lisa Jura) memorialized in this book.

It opens with Lisa going to her final lesson from a master in Vienna. The opening chapter paints a stark reality as she learns what it is like to live with the Nazis as a Jew. Even more heart wrenching is her realization that she can no longer take piano lessons because the Nazis will not allow mingling of Jew and non-Jew. The reader also realizes that this is a girl with tremendous musical talent.

The next scene is one in which the Nazi soldiers wreak destruction in her own Jewish community, and her father is hurt. Her parents face the heartbreaking decision of having to choose which of their daughters they will send from Vienna. They only have one ticket on the Kindertransport and two daughters young enough to go. As she leaves, her mother holds onto her and encourages, no commands, her to hold onto her music, knowing it will be the only familiar thing to sustain her.

The book follows Lisa in her struggle in London, first to learn that the cousin who sponsored her coming cannot take care of her, and then to find a home that will allow her to remain with other children like her. The reader feels the terror and fear and finally realizes the joy she finds in her daily life. Throughout, she listens to her mother’s counsel and follows her music, finding solace and hope in it.

This book left me in tears many times and exulting over her successes in others. What a touching story of hope and love triumphing over fear!

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