By Masha Gessen
Within the Nineteen Thirties, as waves of struggle and persecution have been crashing over Europe, younger Jewish girls all started separate trips of survival. One, a Polish-born girl from Bialystok, the place nearly the complete Jewish neighborhood might quickly be despatched to the ghetto and from there to Hitler’s focus camps, was firm not just to stay yet to stay with delight and defiance. the opposite, a Russian-born highbrow and introvert, may ultimately turn into a high-level censor lower than Stalin’s regime. At war’s finish, either girls came across themselves in Moscow, the place informers lurked on each nook and anti-Semitism reigned. It was once there that Ester and Ruzya may first pass paths, there that they turned the nearest of associates and discovered to belief one another with their lives.
In this deeply relocating family members memoir, journalist Masha Gessen tells the tale of her liked grandmothers: Ester, the quicksilver insurgent who always battled the forces of tyranny; Ruzya, a unmarried mom who joined the Communist celebration less than duress and made the compromises the regime exacted of all its voters. either misplaced their first loves within the battle. either suffered unsatisfied unions. either have been talented linguists who made their dwelling as translators. And either had children—Ester a boy, and Ruzya a girl—who might develop up, fall in love, and feature little ones in their personal: Masha and her more youthful brother.
With grace, candor, and meticulous examine, Gessen peels again the layers of secrecy surrounding her grandmothers’ lives. As she follows them via this amazing interval in history—from the Stalin purges to the Holocaust, from the increase of Zionism to the autumn of communism—she describes how every one of her grandmothers, and sooner than them her great-grandfather, attempted to navigate a deadly line among sense of right and wrong and compromise.
Ester and Ruzya is a spellbinding paintings of storytelling, full of political intrigue and passionate emotion, acts of braveness and acts of betrayal. right away an intimate family members chronicle and a desirable ancient story, it interweaves the tales of 2 ladies with a super imaginative and prescient of Russian background. the result's a memoir that reads like a novel—and a unprecedented testomony to the bonds of relations and the facility of desire, love, and endurance.
From the Hardcover edition.
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Additional resources for Ester and Ruzya: How My Grandmothers Survived Hitler’s War and Stalin’s Peace
I submitted, for the most part, with pleasure. After about a week I went to stay with Ruzya in the small town where she lives with her husband, Alik. I am told that she was striking as a young woman; she rarely acknowledges this. She was still beautiful at seventy-one, when I met her again. Her most remarkable feature, eyes of unlikely gray on the whitest of white—eyes from a child’s drawing, the pure concept of eyes—could still turn heads. When I stayed with my grandmother Ruzya, those eyes looked at me across the table as one looks at a treasure or an unexpected, extravagant gift.
Even in later, gentler times, such as the era in which I grew up, the mere fact of having a relative who lived abroad disqualified one from any number of ostensibly sensitive jobs. Relatives could have disagreements, of course, fights and arguments, but unlike friends, they could not simply drift apart. A rift in a family was almost always a tragedy, and its consequences could be grave. Growing up, I knew there was a large number of people whose presence in my life was a given. Our exact relationship, as determined by blood or marital ties, was often a mystery to me—I still cannot seem to retain this sort of information, interrogating some more knowledgeable cousin or another only to forget, within weeks, everything I am told.
Ruzya decides to impress Uncle Lev with one of the songs from Eva’s repertoire. “ ‘I once loved you / And love may still …’ ” Uncle Lev leans back in his gray chair and laughs happily, loudly, and Eva laughs along with him. Yasha snickers. No one seems annoyed. Ruzya is happy. She never saw Uncle Lev again. A member of the Socialist Party, he was exiled to the Urals following his lengthy internment at the Butyrki prison in Moscow. His punishment for holding the wrong set of political beliefs—he was not a Bolshevik—was mild by Soviet standards, a function of the relatively benign period when he was arrested and who knows what sort of good luck.