One family’s story of survival
'I knew I was going to write the book of my mother's survival and heroism and love, and everything else'.
The Soul of Her Family by Anne Toder is a thrilling transcription of the author’s mother, Sabina Blondowska’s story of survival and heroism in Warsaw between 1939 and 1943.
Sabina escaped the Warsaw Ghetto along with her father, stepmother and two sisters, Edja and Ita. Sabina and Ita posed as Catholic women while hiding their sister and parents, who looked too Jewish to pass as Aryans, until the war’s end.
A labour of love, the book was constructed through detailed documented conversations Toder had with her mother growing up.
“I knew I was going to write the book of my mother’s survival and heroism and love, and everything else that she ever told me about herself, since I was a very young girl,” Toder, who lives in New York, told The AJN.
“I remember how I felt when she was telling me, I remember her telling me more advanced versions of almost all of it as I got older, and once I became an adult, she was like a girlfriend talking about everything.”
With the help of her stepmother, Sabina was the first of the family to escape the ghetto. Shortly after, she helped the rest of her immediate family escape, hiding them in coal bins, storage cages, attics and basements.
Aided by a few Polish friends, the family moved numerous times to stay one step ahead of suspicion and deportation. With only a few exceptions, the family never separated. All but their stepmother survived.
Toder’s cousin, Sydney-based Jack Goldberg, is the son of Ita Blondowska, the youngest sister of the Blondowski family.
“[The book] also describes the devoted goodness of some righteous Polish people, friends and business acquaintances of [the sisters’] father, Abraham Blondowski,” he said.
“What amazed me was that I grew up in my family where my mother Ita remained ‘shtum’ all the while, never revealing in any detail what she, her brave sister and their family had endured.”
Meanwhile Sabina was a fountain of information for her daughter, who kept notes of the places and names her mother mentioned as she grew older.
“I have many friends who say, ‘My parents don’t talk.’ My mother was just the opposite. She would tell you everything – if she knew you were interested, she would make you almost a witness, just by hearing about it,” Toder reflected.
“[My mother] had a great sense of humour, even in the worst of times. So, I just soaked everything in. I thought that she was an incredibly talented storyteller – I still do.”
The Soul of Her Family is available on Amazon.com.au.