“This is the poignant and often suspenseful story of a man who experienced and understood the horror of war from a very young age. As a teenager, during WWI, he narrowly escaped death and then went on, against the odds, to survive two more European wars. His experiences bring to life the motivation and commitment of people like me who speak out, write, and even risk imprisonment through civil disobedience to oppose unnecessary and immoral wars.”—Rep. Bob Edgar (D-PA, Ret.), President, Common Cause; former General Secretary, National Council of Churches
“This is a different kind of survivor story. Its hero did not survive Auschwitz, nor did he spend the war years hiding in an attic or in a forest. After a difficult but successful exodus from Europe, by mid 1941, he and his family arrived in New York and spent most of WWII living on Central Park West. Before reaching the age of twenty, he had already survived two life threatening situations. These early experiences no doubt contributed to the exceptional foresight, survival skills, and courage which led to his taking steps as early as 1936 to facilitate his family’s exodus from Europe in case of war. An inspiring success story!”—Tania Grossinger, author, Growing Up at Grossinger's
“For some, memories of the Holocaust are focused on their or their family's suffering. For some, those memories become a commitment to the Jewish people. And for some, they become a teaching toward the broadest circle—peacemaking and honoring of all “the others” in our lives and in the world. In this book, Myriam Miedzian tells the moving story of how her father survived three twentieth century wars. We also learn how his harrowing experiences, the loss of her extended family in the Holocaust, and her own childhood broken by war have become conjoined for her with the pain of the world, and how her broken heart has become an open heart.”—Rabbi Arthur Waskow, director, The Shalom Center; author, The Tent of Abraham and Godwrestling—Round 2.
What qualities are needed when your life is in danger, not merely once or twice, but on several occasions? As author Myriam Miedzian shows in this richly detailed story of the lives of her Polish-Jewish father and family, it takes tenacity, forethought, ingenuity, strength, and courage. During World War I, the anti-Semitic Polish authorities imprisoned young Henyek Miedzianagora and his father and brother on a trumped-up charge of spying for the Germans. Rebuffed by military authorities, Henyek's tenacious mother sought out a nobleman business acquaintance of her husband and persuaded him that a mistake had been made; with his help, her husband and sons were set free the day of their scheduled execution. It required courage when as a schoolboy, Henyek decided to go AWOL and risk being shot for desertion rather than experience the pointless slaughter of the Polish–Soviet War of 1919-21.
In 1930, Henyek moved to Belgium, where he married and had two children. His awareness of the fragility of existence in a world that can turn hostile at any moment—a legacy no doubt of his early harrowing experiences—led him to leave Brussels immediately on May 10, 1940 when the Germans attacked Belgium, and not turn back. The family eventually reached New York—via France, Spain, and Morocco, where they spent close to a year. Henyek had the extraordinary foresight, in 1936, to deposit $10,000 in a bank account in the United States, just in case. . . . Sure enough, the money made it possible to obtain visas to the U.S.
In a bravura performance of recollection, reimagination, and characterization, Myriam Miedzian relates the incredible story of her father's three passages from peril to safety in her father's voice. Completing this work of generations, Myriam's daughter, Nadia Malinovich, a professor of Jewish history, fleshes out the historical and cultural background of her grandfather and, indeed, great-grandfather's life in Poland and Belgium during the first half of the twentieth century.