Saving the Tremors of Past Lives: A Cross-Generational Holocaust Memoir

Saving the Tremors of Past Lives: A Cross-Generational Holocaust Memoir

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Regina Grol

Series: Jews of Poland
ISBN: 9781618112569 (hardcover) / 9781618112248 (paper)
Pages: 300 pp.
Publication Date: February 2014

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The Jewish community of the Polish border town of Brzesc (Brisk in Yiddish), which had numbered almost 30,000 people, was wiped out during the Holocaust, with only about 10 of its members surviving. One of them was Masza Pinczuk, who escaped from the Brzesc ghetto on the eve of its liquidation on October 15, 1942. Her future husband succeeded in escaping from the Warsaw ghetto. They were the sole survivors of their respective families, and in this volume their daughter, Regina Grol, shares their story and meditates on the legacy of the Holocaust, exploring the lingering impact of the Holocaust on the following generations. Based on interviews and letters, and checked against historical facts, the book includes supporting documents and photographs. It also contains an account of the author’s “internal flanerie” (to use Walter Benjamin’s term), i.e., a retrospective and introspective look at her own life as a child of Holocaust survivors.

Regina Grol (PhD State University of New York–Binghamton) has taught Polish studies and is currently a fellow at the Center for Slavic, Eurasian and East European Studies at the University of North Carolina–Chapel Hill. She has been a professor of comparative literature at Empire State College, State University of New York, and a visiting professor at Rutgers University and Hunter College of CUNY. In addition to numerous critical essays, her publications include several bilingual poetry volumes, including the anthology Ambers Aglow: Contemporary Polish Women’s Poetry 1981–1995 (1996) and her translation of And Yet I Still Have Dreams by Joanna Wiszniewicz (2004).

This carefully crafted and deeply moving memoir is an account of the history of one of the very few Polish-Jewish families formed by the catastrophe of the Second World War and its subsequent history. Indeed, it encapsulates the history of those who survived the war and attempted to make new lives in new socialist Poland, and provides a valuable introduction to those who want to understand why it was so difficult to establish a viable Jewish community in that country after the war.
— Antony Polonsky, Albert Abramson Professor of Holocaust Studies, Brandeis University
When as a child Regina Grol felt embarrassed by her father’s extravagant praises of her school grades, he would tell her that she “was living proof of his triumph over Nazis” (p. 117). This declaration that Regina Grol quotes in her remarkable family memoir can serve as a summary of its intent. Not only would she meet the challenge by means other than her good works, but she would also provide testimony to the meaning of that triumph: its value for her generation of the children of Holocaust survivors and for generations to come.
— Joanna Rostropowicz Clark, Princeton Research Forum, The Polish Review (Vol. 62, No. 7)

Table of Contents

Preface, by Antony Polonsky

Chapter One: The Knight on the White Horse
Chapter Two: Bialystok
Chapter Three: From Bialystok to Dubno
Chapter Four: Further Migrations: From Dubno to Katowice to Haifa
Chapter Five: (Temporary) Return to Warsaw
Chapter Six: 1968; or, America! America! 
Chapter Seven: Dreams
Chapter Eight: Dwelling in a Name
Chapter Nine: My Father: The Mystery Man
Chapter Ten: Mother and Her Family
Chapter Eleven: Danuta
Chapter Twelve: On Graves, Burial Rites, and the Search for Identity
Chapter Thirteen: Poems