In a village in prewar Eastern Europe, young Pinchas Blitt is surrounded by colorful characters, vivid stories and the rich language and traditions of his ancestors. As antisemitism rises, Pinchas is beset by fears, but he finds belonging in family, Jewish texts, and prayers. In 1939, Pinchas adapts to the new Soviet occupation, but when the Nazis arrive, his beloved village is decimated, and he and his family must flee. A precarious existence on the run brings Pinchas face to face with his own mortality and faith, and with a sense of dislocation that will accompany him throughout his life.
A Promise of Sweet Tea: Memoirs of a Survivor
This beautifully written and poignant memoir provides a searing account of the relatively rare experiences of a Jewish family who survived the Holocaust by hiding and “living in the forests” of Western Ukraine. Told from the perspective of a boy who was 9 or 10 — he wasn’t sure – in such evocative language that the reader also feels like a child who is stalked by the Nazi’s. Blitt could actually see the eyes of the killers when they murder other Jews who are hiding close to him in the marshes.
Most Jews in his small backwoods village have nowhere to go, and are at home when the Germans and Ukrainians come to rob and murder them. For example at one point, a Polish farmer, a friend of his fathers, offers to shelter their family of four by allowing them to stay in his barn over shabbat (which this religious family observes – along with all the other holidays — throughout the war) and they are about to say the prayer after their meagre “meal” when the farmer comes to tell them his grandparents, a Rabbi and his wife, were murdered in their home.
What is unusual, in addition to their skill and luck in surviving by hiding in the forest, is that this family remains deeply religious and observant throughout the war, keeping the shabbat and Jewish holidays, and saying prayers thoughout the day. These traditions anchor their lives and sustain them.
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