Always Remember Your Name tells the story of two sisters, Andra and Tatiana Bucci, who survived Auschwitz as young girls, reunited with family, and rebuilt their life amidst the ashes. The plain language captures the terrifying innocence of being a small child during the Holocausts’ darkest days.
Although their memoir begins with a short account of their family’s history and their early childhood in Fiume, in only a few short pages the girls are discovered and sent first to the Rice Mill of San Sabba and then to Auschwitz. The Buccis’ account of their time in the camp is unique; the way of their writing mimics the very process of memory.
Perhaps the most poignant part of the narrative comes in describing the Bucci girl’s relationship with their mother. They tell in detail how their mother would sneak into their barracks and remind them again and again to tell her their names. She knew that one could easily lose one’s identity in the camps and become simply a number. To this defiant act of maintaining their sense of self, along with a host of other small kindnesses by others in the camp, the authors credit their survival.
The book also devotes a great deal of time to exploring what happened to the sisters after they were liberated. We learn how the girls ended up in a home for girls in London, how they then were reunited with their parents, and what it meant to them to start over in Italy with the vestiges of the Holocaust still around them. We also learn about how they fell in love with their husbands, what it meant to them to start a family, and what the legacy of the Holocaust still means to them today.
Always Remember Your Name is a powerful, yet simple, telling of a harrowing period in two young girl’s lives. The Bucci sisters will stay with the reader long after the book is closed.
Rabbi Marc Katz is the Rabbi at Temple Ner Tamid in Bloomfield, NJ. He is author of the book The Heart of Loneliness: How Jewish Wisdom Can Help You Cope and Find Comfort (Turner Publishing), which was chosen as a finalist for the National Jewish Book Award.