Moth­er and Me: Escape From War­saw 1939

Julian Pad­ow­icz
  • Review
By – April 16, 2012
Through the eyes and fears of a young boy, author Julian Pad­ow­icz paints a vivid pic­ture of child­hood in this fic­tion­al­ized mem­oir set in pre-World War II Poland. His Jew­ish socialite moth­er and step­fa­ther spend their time trav­el­ing and enter­tain­ing guests while a Catholic gov­erness named Kiki rais­es him. In the absence of his par­ents’ guid­ance, Kiki reg­u­lar­ly takes Julian to mass and schools him in the beliefs of Catholi­cism. As the Russ­ian troops advance toward War­saw, Julian’s moth­er makes arrange­ments with oth­er female rel­a­tives whose hus­bands have been called to the front to trav­el to the coun­try­side for safe­ty. Once sep­a­rat­ed from his beloved Kiki, Julian is forced to carve out a rela­tion­ship with his moth­er, a woman he is cer­tain will be doomed to spend eter­ni­ty in hell unless he can fig­ure out a way to have her bap­tized. With his shel­tered world hav­ing crum­bled around him, Julian is faced with doubts about his iden­ti­ty and finds him­self grap­pling with the valid­i­ty of Kiki’s teach­ings. As Julian and his moth­er trav­el from Poland to Hun­gry and even­tu­al­ly Amer­i­ca, the sig­nif­i­cance of the evolv­ing moth­er-son rela­tion­ship becomes appar­ent. Read­ers will rec­og­nize and appre­ci­ate fam­i­ly dynam­ics, brought to life with poignan­cy and humor, and fil­tered through the vivid imag­i­na­tion of a child. Pad­ow­icz effec­tive­ly uses World War II as a back­drop for describ­ing the com­plex­i­ties of com­ing of age dur­ing a peri­od in his­to­ry when iden­ti­fy­ing one’s true reli­gion and core beliefs came at a poten­tial­ly fatal price.
Mol­ly Beth Dubin received an M.A. in art his­to­ry and muse­um stud­ies from the Uni­ver­si­ty of Den­ver. She is cul­tur­al arts direc­tor for the Har­ry & Rose Sam­son Fam­i­ly Jew­ish Com­mu­ni­ty Cen­ter of Milwaukee.

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