The Children of Willesden Lane: Beyond the Kindertransport: A Memoir of Music, Love, and Survival [NOOK Book]

Overview

Based on the true story of her mother, Mona Golabek describes the inspirational story of Lisa Jura Golabek's escape from Nazi-controlled Austria to England on the famed Kindertransport. Jewish musical prodigy Lisa Jura has a wonderful life in Vienna. But when the Nazis start closing in on the city, life changes irreversibly. Although he has three daughters, Lisa's father is only able to secure one berth on the Kindertransport. The family decides to send Lisa to London so that she may pursue her dreams of a career...
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The Children of Willesden Lane: Beyond the Kindertransport: A Memoir of Music, Love, and Survival

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Overview

Based on the true story of her mother, Mona Golabek describes the inspirational story of Lisa Jura Golabek's escape from Nazi-controlled Austria to England on the famed Kindertransport. Jewish musical prodigy Lisa Jura has a wonderful life in Vienna. But when the Nazis start closing in on the city, life changes irreversibly. Although he has three daughters, Lisa's father is only able to secure one berth on the Kindertransport. The family decides to send Lisa to London so that she may pursue her dreams of a career as a concert pianist. Separated from her beloved family, Lisa bravely endures the trip and a disastrous posting outside London before finding her way to the Willesden Lane Orphanage.It is in this orphanage that Lisa's story truly comes to life. Her music inspires the other orphanage children, and they, in turn, cheer her on in her efforts to make good on her promise to her family to realize her musical potential. Through hard work and sheer pluck, Lisa wins a scholarship to study piano at the Royal Academy. As she supports herself and studies, she makes a new life for herself and dreams of reconnecting with the family she was forced to leave behind. The resulting tale delivers a message of the power of music to uplift the human spirit and to grant the individual soul endurance, patience, and peace.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780446506663
  • Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
  • Publication date: 7/31/2007
  • Sold by: Hachette Digital, Inc.
  • Format: eBook
  • Sales rank: 94,878
  • File size: 788 KB

Meet the Author

Mona Golabek is an internationally acclaimed concert pianist, the host of the popular syndicated classical music radio show, "The Romantic Hours," and Grammy-nominated recording artist. With her sister, Rene Golabek Kaye, she has performed at the Hollywood Bowl, Kennedy Center, and London's Festival Hall. Ms. Golabek lives in Los Angeles.

Lee Cohen is a journalist, screenwriter, and poet. He lives in Los Angeles.

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Read an Excerpt

The Children of Willesden Lane


By Mona Golabek and Lee Cohen

Warner Books

Copyright © 2002 Mona Golabek and Lee Cohen
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0-446-69027-9


Chapter One

Lisa Jura took her appearance very seriously. She stood in front of the mirror for an eternity, arranging her dark red hair so that it peeked stylishly from under the wool hat she had just bought in the hand-me-down store. The hat needed the perfect tilt ... just so. She had seen the models do it in the fashion magazines.

She was determined to look more sophisticated than her fourteen years. She was going to her piano lesson and there was nothing more important. Finally turning from the mirror, she smiled at the image of a saucy young girl.

After opening the front door quietly, so as not to disturb her family, she walked down the hallway of the crowded tenement and emerged from the solemn gray building, stepping onto the sidewalk of Franzensbreckestrasse in the heart of the Jewish section of the city.

As she had done every Sunday since her tenth birthday, Lisa boarded the lumbering streetcar and crossed Vienna, heading for Professor Isseles's studio.

She loved the ride.

The images rushed by her window-the glorious Ferris wheel of the Prater amusement park and the blue and serene Danube-eerily accompanied by the distant rhythm of an oompah band. To go across the city was to enter another century-the era of grand palaces and stately ballrooms. Street upon street of marble and granite, of pillar and pediment. The spire of St. Stephen's Cathedral danced by. Her father called it "Der Alte Steffe"-"Old Stevie." Lisa thought it a silly name; it was much more grand than that, rising to the heavens like a castle in a fairy tale.

As the streetcar descended the broad avenue and passed Symphony Hall, Lisa closed her eyes, just as she had many times before, and imagined herself sitting perfectly still in front of the grand piano on the stage of the great auditorium. A hush fell over the audience. The keys shimmered in front of her, ebony against ivory. She could hear the opening of Grieg's heroic piano concerto: the soft roll of the tympani building until the moment of her entrance. She straightened her back into the elegant posture her mother had taught her, and when the tension was almost unbearable she took a breath and began to play.

She could sense the excitement of the audience and feel their hearts beat in time with hers. The exhilaration of hearing the music inside her was so extreme that the bumps of the ride and the noise of the street no longer disturbed her.

When she finally opened her eyes, the car was passing the Ringstrasse, the majestic tree-lined boulevard where the Grand Court Opera House stood. She looked out the window in awe and waited for the driver to call her stop.

This was the Vienna of Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert, Mahler, and Strauss, the greatest composers of all time. Lisa's mother had filled her head with their stories, and she had made a secret vow to live up to their legacy. She could hear their music in the marble of the buildings and the stones of the streets. They were here. They were listening.

In a booming voice, the driver called out her stop. But today his words were strange and different. In place of the familiar "Mahler-Strasse" she was expecting, he called another name: "Meistersinger-Strasse." Lisa's heart stopped momentarily.

She climbed down into the great plaza. All the street signs had been changed; the Nazis did not approve of such a grand avenue being named after a Jew. She felt her fury grow but tried to contain herself. Getting upset would only interfere with her music. She forced herself to think about the lesson ahead, knowing that once she was at the piano, the world outside would disappear.

Although it was early, the cafe-lined streets bustled with energy. The gentle sounds of the "Blue Danube" waltz, mixing with raucous Dixieland jazz, returned the smile to Lisa's face. The aroma of warm, fresh apfelstrudel, thick with sliced apples and cinnamon, made her long for a taste of her mother's recipe-surely the best in all of Vienna.

Inside the cafes, well-dressed young men and women sipped their coffee, deep in animated conversation. Lisa imagined them all to be composers, artists, and poets passionately defending their latest works. She yearned to join them, to wear fine clothes and speak of Beethoven and Mozart-to be a part of that intoxicating cafe society. One day, when she made her musical debut, these streets, these cafees, would be hers.

When Lisa reached her destination, she stopped short. A German soldier, tall and emotionless, stood in the doorway of the old stone building that housed Professor Isseles's music studio. The sun glinted harshly off the black rifle he held against his gray uniform.

She had been coming to the professor's studio for nearly four years, but this was the first time anyone had been standing guard. She shouldn't have been surprised, though; Nazi guards were becoming an increasingly menacing sight on the streets of Vienna.

He asked coldly, "What business do you have here?"

"I have a piano lesson," she replied, trying not to be frightened by the soldier's commanding presence or by the firearm on his shoulder.

"The professor will be waiting," she continued in a loud, clear voice, the force of her words belying her true state of mind. The soldier looked up to the second-floor window. A figure stared down, then motioned that it was all right for the girl to come up. Lowering his weapon, the soldier moved away from the door and grudgingly allowed Lisa to pass.

"Come in, Miss Jura," Professor Isseles said, greeting Lisa with his customary warm handshake. The stoop-shouldered, white-haired gentleman ushered her in past a chipped bust of Beethoven and a sideboard covered with stacks of yellow sheet music. She breathed in the aroma of the professor's pipe tobacco. These sights and scents had become a friendly greeting-a signal that for the next hour, she could turn away from all else and be a part of the music she loved.

The professor's stately Blethner piano stood in the middle of the studio. It was richly polished, with ornately carved legs and a scroll-patterned music stand. On the wall hung her teacher's prized possession-a photograph of Franz Liszt as an old man, surrounded by several students, including the professor's teacher. He boasted that his teachings were a direct line from the master himself, and there was a worn mark on the photograph where he had so often placed his finger.

As usual, there was little small talk. Lisa put the score of Beethoven's Piano Concerto no. 1 in C on the music stand and sat on the worn piano bench. She adjusted its height to fit her small stature.

"So, Miss Jura, was it difficult?" asked the professor.

"It was much too easy," she teased.

"Then I expect nothing less than perfection," he responded, smiling.

Lisa began to play the tender C-major opening theme. The professor sat forward in his chair and followed her progress with his copy of the score. When the simple theme erupted into cascades of descending arpeggios, she peered out of the corner of her eye to judge his reaction.

She hoped to catch him smiling. After all, she had learned the complicated first movement in only a week and had often heard him say that she was his best student.

But the professor continued listening with a stern concentration. When he had this expression, she imagined it was his sadness at not being able to play the piano anymore. Arthritis had stiffened his fingers, making it impossible to demonstrate the correct way of playing. What a cruel trick of fate to deny a pianist the ability to perform, she thought. She could not imagine a day when she would not be able to play.

To illustrate his lessons, Professor Isseles would play recordings for her on his gramophone. He was in awe of Horowitz's playing of Rachmaninoff, but it was the lyricism of Myra Hess performing Beethoven that he most appreciated.

"Listen to the tone of her legato," the professor would say with a sigh.

Lisa listened and listened and listened.

For most of the hour Lisa played uninterrupted, as the old man sat in silence, occasionally bringing his hand down to emphasize an accent in the music. Finally, he put down his music and just listened. She looked over and saw a distressed expression on his face. Was she playing that badly?

At the end of the piece, the professor made no comment. Lisa went on to her customary scales and waited anxiously for her assignment. The professor focused on scraping the bowl of his pipe into the ashtray.

"May I do the adagio for next week?" she asked nervously. She loved the second movement and yearned to show him her improving legato.

He looked at her for a long moment, then finally spoke, looking uncomfortable and ashamed: "I am sorry, Miss Jura. But I am required to tell you that I cannot continue to teach you."

Lisa was stunned and unable to move. The professor walked to his window and opened the curtain. He stared at the people in the street. "There is a new ordinance," he said slowly. "It is now a crime to teach a Jewish child." He continued mumbling under his breath, then added in despair, "Can you imagine!"

Lisa felt tears rising.

"I am not a brave man," he said softly. "I am so sorry."

He came over to the piano, lifted up her slender young hands, and held them in his grip. "You have a remarkable gift, Lisa, never forget that."

Through her tears, she watched the professor pick up a thin gold chain that lay on top of the piano. It held a tiny charm in the shape of a piano.

"It is not much, but perhaps it will help you to remember the music we shared here," he said softly, fastening the gold chain around her neck with trembling fingers.

She stared through her tears at the stacks of music, the picture of Liszt on the wall, and tried to memorize every detail. She was afraid she might never see them again. Gathering her composure, she thanked the professor and collected her things, then turned and fled.

The cold November wind sent a deep shiver through Lisa's slender body as she pulled her coat tight around her and waited for the next streetcar. German SS, storm troopers, were everywhere she looked. Were they all staring at her? She threw her head back and walked defiantly toward the approaching car, climbing onto the landing and grabbing the frozen pole tightly with her woolen mittens. Staring back at the huge building, she memorized the pattern of its beveled glass windows, the size of its portico, and the gleam of the bronze door handle, shining from the polish of thousands of handclasps. The professor waved sadly before disappearing from his window.

Why were Germans telling Austrians what they could or couldn't do? It wasn't fair, and why were the Austrians letting them? There must be an answer-there must be someone to blame.

The faces on the streetcar were staring at her with pity. She quickly yanked the hat off her head and covered her face, realizing she had been crying since she'd left the studio. She wouldn't give these horrible people the satisfaction of watching her.

The ride was endless, its magic gone. She couldn't wait to get back to Franzensbreckestrasse, where everyone in the old neighborhood knew her-the little girl who played the piano. The neighbors had gossiped at first about her mother, Malka, when she had bought that expensive up-right piano from Mr. Minsky's secondhand store. How could the Juras afford it? Such an extravagant purchase in these tense times.

But five years later, the neighbors had realized their shortsightedness. Malka's daughter was special. She had a gift. You could hear it in the butcher's shop, you could hear it in the bakery-the music drifted everywhere. The street itself seemed to smile when the little girl played. People started calling her by that special word: Lisa Jura was a prodigy.

Sometimes Lisa played so loudly that her banging octaves could be heard above the clatter of the trashcans and mixed into the teeming loudness of tenement clatter.

But when she played softly and sweetly, old couples would move to their windows and stop whatever they were doing. Schubert and Mozart would float down the stairs, in and out of apartments, and fill the neighborhood with grace.

The music transported the mind of this precocious teenager into fanciful imaginings. As she played the first bars of a Strauss waltz, she saw herself in a satin ball gown, her hand held high by some count or marquis, being led to the dance floor. The elegant crowd parted as she made her entrance.

From the time she was a little girl, Malka taught Lisa to surrender herself completely to the music by telling her stories and painting fantastic images. For Lisa the music became her whole world: an escape from the dark streets, the rundown flats, shops, and markets that were home to Vienna's working-class Jews. And now, the most important escape of all, from the Nazis.

As she neared 13 Franzensbreckestrasse, Lisa's steps were uncharacteristically slow. Her heels barely left the ground; her upright posture sagged. She arrived in her living room and dropped her music on the bench with a gesture that alarmed her mother.

"What is it, Liseleh, what's wrong?" Malka took her daughter in her arms and stroked her hair. Lisa cried desperately. Malka guessed what must have happened. "Is it Professor Isseles?"

Lisa nodded.

"Don't worry, I taught you before. I will teach you again." Lisa tried to smile at her mother's offer, but they both knew that Lisa had long ago surpassed her mother's ability.

"Let's play something now. Let's begin the day all over again."

"I can't play now, Mama. I'm too upset."

"Oh, Lisa, have you forgotten all I've taught you? It's at times like this that your music is most important."

Malka went to the cupboard and pulled out the complete preludes by Chopin; after opening the book to the number four in E Minor, she sat at the piano.

"I'll play the right hand, you play the left," Malka insisted. "I can't."

"Play what is in your heart."

Lisa sat beside her, playing the four-four rhythm of the marching, repeating chords. When she'd mastered the left hand, she took over from her mother, blending the plaintive melody of the upper register with the somber chords of the base. The melody reached its final question and found resolution in an exquisite pianissimo.

Outside, an old woman put down her heavy groceries, leaned against the building, and listened.

When she finished the Chopin, Lisa went to her room and lay down, crying as silently as possible into the pillow.

A few minutes later she felt a warm hand on her shoulder, stroking her gently. It was her older sister, Rosie. "Don't cry, Lisa," she urged. "Come on. I'll show you something."

Lisa finally rolled over and looked up at the smartly dressed twenty-year-old.

Continues...


Excerpted from The Children of Willesden Lane by Mona Golabek and Lee Cohen Copyright © 2002 by Mona Golabek and Lee Cohen. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 19 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 19 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 20, 2011

    A must read!

    This is an amazing book. It depicts the exact life of the young Jewish refugees who managed to escape to England in World War II. My own mother and younger sister did exactly the same thing as Lisa. My mother was going to be a dress designer and was already studying in Vienna. She also had to go to England as a domestic maid, then went to a house in North London with other refugees and worked as a seamstress just like Lisa. My mother was also on fire watch for the bombs during the blitz. It is a must read as Lisa was studying classical piano in Vienna, managed to leave when "chosen" by her family as the one to leave because of her talent. Lisa managed to get her younger sister to England too on the "kinder transport" as did my mother with my Aunt.
    This is a heart wrenching true story. It shows how lives of survivors of the holocaust were shattered and how they were rebuilt. Keep the Kleenex handy

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 6, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    More of a YA book but worth the read.

    Although this book is billed as a memoir I don't think I would describe it as such. It is more of a true life experience written in almost novel form. Even though I found the writing to be more for a young adult/early teen audience I still could not put this book down. The story is very heartwarming and it kept making my eyes tear up (not fun when you have a scratched eyeball). I had many things I needed to do but they seemed less important to me than what was going on in Lisa's life in London during WWII. Lisa's story is one of parental sacrifice, the power of friends and family(whether blood related or not), resilience, and the healing power of music.

    I would highly recommend it for many YA readers who are looking for something to read for a history class.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 10, 2007

    The Holocaust Survived by a Young Girl

    This book was about a young girl, Lisa Jura, who lives during the time of the Holocaust. Vienna, the place that she lives, becomes a terrible place to live for Jews because of the Nazi's. Her family has one ticket for the kindertransport, a train that takes Jewish kids to England so their lives are not endangered. One reason her parents choose her out of thier three children is because she has incredible talent when it comes to playing the piano and they think she can make something of herself if she continues to play... As soon as you open this book you can't put it down. You want to know want to know what happens next and if she survived through the whole thing. Because it was based on a true story, it makes you think that this could have happened to you if you lived during this time. Overall this is a great book and I really enjoyed reading it.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 23, 2009

    World War II Revisited - A Musician's Story

    I read this book because I saw an interview with the author. She is so talented and articulate. Listening to her speak about her mother made me want to read the book. I love books about London during World War II, and this book was alive with details. A a musician I also found the musical aspect of the story intriging. I will keep this book and read it again.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 9, 2005

    A Great Read!

    I read this book as a required in my senior english class. I loved it, I would recommend to any one. It is not the usuall novel that is required for class, it was a great story of a jewish girl and her journey through WWII

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 23, 2003

    Required Reading for All

    An amazing story: inspirational, heartbreaking, passionate, and triumphant. By clearly and eloquently describing her mother's life, Mona Golabek has truly honored her. I can recommend this book, without reservation, to all.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 25, 2002

    Inspiring

    The story of Lisa Jura is not one you will easily forget. It is not one I will soon forget either. It is a true story of a girl's escape from pre-WWII Vienna London. You don't have to be a musician to be moved by the strength that her music gave to the young girl. It became her best friend when her world crashed down around her. Truth is, indeed, stranger than fiction as Lisa goes from losing everything to finding her musical voice once again at the Royal Academy of London. As with The Diary of Anne Frank, I came away with such awe at the strength people can exhibit. They can endure such privation and still find joy in living. I cannot recommend this book too highly.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 19, 2014

    This is the best book I have ever read! I'm telling everyone I k

    This is the best book I have ever read! I'm telling everyone I know to read it.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 17, 2013

    BEST BOOK EVER!!!!

    I am 12 years old and i love to read i just use my moms nook acount.... Anyways this was the best book ever. It was a little sad but it moved me.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 5, 2013

    Amazing book!!!!

    This is one of the best books I have read this year. The reader is captivated by the characters and the plot. I especially appreciated the fact that the author was writing about her Mother, and that the musical talent her Mother had was passed down to both her daughters. I knew about the children being sent away during the Holocust, but this book made that personal.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 31, 2005

    A young girl's view of the Holocaust

    This is a story that will bring you in from the first page. The struggles show how lucky we really are now. There was a world back then that was gone right before their eyes. I would have never expected the affect this book would have on a girl like me.From the struggles,to the romance, and the personal issues she faced. This is a must read. You would never regret reading this.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 27, 2004

    Sacrifice, Commitment and Love will survive

    This story carries you from the moment you begin to read on page 1 to the very last. The strength of a parents love for a childs survival and the commitment to continuing to do what is important despite trying and heartbreaking circumstances. This book is a must read for all age groups.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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    Posted November 2, 2011

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    Posted March 3, 2011

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    Posted January 9, 2011

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    Posted November 1, 2009

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    Posted May 23, 2009

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    Posted November 15, 2011

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    Posted December 15, 2009

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