I’ve read a number of memoirs written by Jews about their life during the Holocaust, how they survived and how they rebuilt their lives afterwards but this is the first book I’ve read from a non-Jewish viewpoint.
Liubinas was born in Lithuania and fled with her family from the Russians to the West. They had an horrific time hiding in the forest and being hid by neighbouring families until they were sent to a refugee camp in Germany. They eventually managed to migrate to Australia in 1949 and rebuilt their lives in Melbourne, buying a house and with Liubinas marrying here and having a family.
This is a wonderful book, actually three books as it’s been divided into three sections with the first one being their time in Lithuania and Germany, the second one being their time in Australia until her marriage and the third being Liubinas first visit to Lithuania. It’s interesting to see how people other than Jews were persecuted during the Holocaust. I did know about this, the figures I heard as a child were 6 million Jews killed and 6 millions others, but I’ve never managed to read any first hand accounts of it. Liubinas talks about the Jews being persecuted and actually tries to help someone at one point. The only difference I found between the Jews and Liubinas’ family is the celebrations, Liubinas’ family openly celebrated Christmas while the Jews hide all possible celebrations. We also get some information of how the Communists treated Lithuanians i.e. not well.
I loved this book, it was well written, reasonably well proofed but I felt it could use a good deal of editing. I thought it was too Australianised and would have liked to have more Lithuanian in it (with translations, of course). Liubinas calls her parents “Mother” and “Father” which I’m sure are not the words she would have used in Lithuania, I would have like to have seen the Lithuanian words and a translation as well as a glossary at the end with all the Lithuanian words, their translation and a pronunciation guide. Having said that it’s really the only problem I have with the book, it has graphic accounts of living as a Lithuanian under Communist rule, then living under German rule with a hair raising escape in good Hollywood tradition. The family had such trouble adjusting to life in Melbourne and this is shown very nicely. I found myself sympathising so much with them, it’s incredibly courageous to emigrate to a country where you don’t understand the language or the customs. The language was a little simple but I’m bearing in mind English was not her first language, nor her second, in fact I’ve lost count of the number of languages she could speak enough of to make herself understood.
Anyway, I fully recommend this book but you’re not getting it from me as this one’s staying on my shelf.