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Chapter One contains love letters to my mother from my father. It also describes his desperate attempts to leave the country. Chapter Two shows how hard my father tried to get some of his family out, especially his sister married to a rabbi. Rabbis were targets of oppression. Chapter Three illustrates how difficult life became in Vilna even before the Holocaust. It was a cry for help. They knew what was coming, yet kept hope alive. I'm glad my father could not go back with me because the experience would have been too painful for him.
Posted November 20, 2006
One could not help but be moved by the poignancy and courage of this intimate collection of family letters. Mailed from Vilna, Lithuania to Pennsylvania, USA, they reveal the kind of innermost thoughts too rarely shared in today's cell phone world. A deeply personal story, Voices from Vilna spans both the seas and three generations. Woven through memory and history are helplessness and ultimately healing. And though its 47 pages can be read in an afternoon, the voices within them continue to resonate long after this slim volume is put aside. At the heart of this engrossing memoir is the tender longing of Dr. Helaine Shoag Greenberg, a Pennsylvania grandmother, to share the story of her Jewish father who escaped from unsafe Europe to a safe America and of his desperate family who did not. The book's first letters begin 'Dear Dad.They are written by the author to her deceased father during a profoundly emotional pilgrimage to his hometown in Lithuania (today's Vilnius). This was a trip Dr. Greenberg had hoped to make in her father's company. Instead, it becomes a tribute to his memory. Nonetheless, he is with her every step--through cobblestone streets of ancient towns, among Jewish gravestones and to dirt paths of the tiny shtetle birthplace of two grandmothrs. She has brought with her old letters written between 1932 and 1940. Letters miraculously discovered after her parents' deaths. Unlike much Holocaust literature relating unspeakable horror, these pages contain loving (and sometimes pleading)notes written at the kitchen table and mailed with fear they would not reach their destination. No responses to the letters have been found. All the recipients have long since perished. What comes through is an unyielding spirit of individuals who courageously cherish life--even at its worst--and also cherish one another. Explanations and chronologies inserted by the author provide a lesson in history for young people of a time so unlike our own. And yet. Between the lines of love and loss is a reminder of how imperceptibly freedoms can erode when governments do not respect the humanity of their citizens. Listening to voices from the past, not-so-young people might learn that lesson as well.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.