Sunday, July 03, 2011

Waltzing With The Enemy: A Mother and Daughter Confront the Aftermath of the Holocaust

Waltzing with the Enemy by Rasia Kliot and Helen Mitsios is a memoir written by a mother and daughter that begins prior to the Holocaust and continues to the present time. Helen Mitsios grew up in Phoenix, Arizona, went to a Catholic school, celebrated Christmas, and attended church on Sundays with her parents. As a young girl she didn’t find it odd that her Eastern European mother, Rasia, spoke Yiddish at home and that their life was steeped in Eastern European culture. Then, when Helen was twelve years old, Rasia confessed that she was actually Jewish. Over time, her mother filled in the details of the Nazi invasion of her home in Lithuania, the horrible murder of her father, the imprisonment of her family in the Vilnius ghetto, and how she was able to pass as a Christian with fake identification papers for the duration of the war in the countryside. But Rasia absolutely forbid Helen to divulge her secret, for even now in America, she was fearful of anti-Semitism.

“These mirrored memories provide an intimate portrait, compelling and compassionate.” - Publishers Weekly

Needless to say, Helen’s world was turned upside down, and she felt she too was living a double life. She felt as though there were two people within her – the Catholic girl and the Jewish girl. Who was she? Were did she belong? Who was her mother really?

Filled with insight and humor, this dual memoir is at its heart a book about keeping secrets, about dual identities and juggling different identities, and about how secrets impact an entire family. It addresses the unspoken tension that complicated Rasia and Helen’s mother-daughter relationship, follows Helen on her up-and-down journey to embrace Judaism, and is one of the most heart-stopping stories of adventure, escape and survival from Nazi terror you will ever read.

What I Can Tell You: I was given an advanced reading copy to review and sat down to read. This was not one of these books that you simply read through in one sitting. When you are reading about something so real, so terrible, you need to take a break and remove yourself if even for a moment. Fortunately, as the reader, I can.

Rasia is a true hero. To even sit and think about how she and her family watched her father and other family forced from their home to never be seen again is frightening. She had to publicly deny her faith and heritage to survive and eventually learned to actually believe it. She suppressed the truth so far that she started to feel ashamed of being Jewish until her daughter Helen tells her to be unashamed and together they revisit the ghosts from the past.

This is a book of true survival, escape and determination.

To Purchase:

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy for my honest opinion.

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