Fifty years after his departure, Michal Glowinski returns to the world of his childhood with a series of partially-remembered images, incidents, events and reflections. Each one relates an experience emerging from flashes of memory, a partial reconstruction of what happened to him and how he survived. He recalls his early childhood fantasy of what he thought a ghetto would be like. Now he remembers the ghetto by the grayish color of the paper that covered its dead citizens awaiting cartage and an emaciated violinist playing a Mendelssohn concerto on the ghetto streets. He recalls the family’s daring escape from the ghetto and the American uncle, a black sheep of the family who had returned to Poland to escape paying alimony, who was instrumental in saving them and other family members. Another story relates how when a blackmailer threatened to disclose the attic hiding place of his family, the shabby little chess set Michal carried with him probably saved the family from being turned over to the Gestapo, as he and the blackmailer played while awaiting the return of an aunt who went to collect the money. The family ultimately had to separate. Michal was saved by Polish nuns in a convent in Turkowice that hid many Jewish boys passing as practicing Catholics. Once he and some of the other boys were taken to a palatial home as a treat where they received some chocolates. His mother was working there as a (Christian) maid and had to make sure that Michal didn’t see her. There are so many fascinatingly recalled episodes that in addition to being another testament to the Shoah, it is — one might almost say, despite the tragedies — enjoyable reading. Glowinski is a talented writer and a distinguished scholar, occupying a chair of literary theory at the prestigious Institute of Literary Studies in Warsaw.
Marcia W. Posner, Ph.D., of the Holocaust Memorial and Tolerance Center of Nassau County, is the library and program director. An author and playwright herself, she loves reviewing for JBW and reading all the other reviews and articles in this marvelous periodical.