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Tereska Torres (1920–2012)

Author of Women's Barracks

Includes the names: Tereska Torre, Tereska Torres, Tereska Torrès, Torreska Torres, Tereska Torrès

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Short biography
From The New York Times, Sept. 24, 2012: Ms. Torrès’s personal narrative was far more dramatic than anything in her fiction. She was born Tereska Szwarc in Paris. Her father, Marek, a prominent painter and sculptor, and her mother, Guina Pinkus, a novelist and poet, were Jews from Poland. Before her birth, they had settled in France, and — in secret, so as not to antagonize their families — converted to Roman Catholicism and sent Tereska to a convent school. When Tereska was 13, as she recounts in a memoir, “The Converts” (1970), news of her parents’ conversion was reported in the world Jewish press, alienating their relatives in Poland. But though the family practiced its Catholicism openly from then on, they knew it would not be enough to save them once the Nazis occupied France in 1940. They fled to Portugal and on to London, where Tereska enlisted in General Charles de Gaulle’s Free French forces; assigned to secretarial duties, she rose to second lieutenant. In London, she fell in love with Georges Torrès. A French Jew also serving with the Free French, he was the stepson of the former French Prime Minister Léon Blum, who had been imprisoned by the Germans in Buchenwald. After a brief courtship, the couple were married in 1944; Georges Torrès was killed in action in France several months later. By this time, Ms. Torrès was pregnant. At war’s end she returned to Paris, where, despondent over the loss of her husband, she attempted suicide. In 1948, Ms. Torrès married Mr. Levin, a friend of her parents 15 years her senior. Riveted by her stories of life with the Free French, he encouraged her to turn her wartime diary into a novel. He translated the manuscript called "Women's Barracks" from French into English and arranged for it to be published. . . Ms. Torrès told Salon.com in 2005. "I hadn’t invented anything — that’s the way women lived during the war in London." She added: "I thought I had written a very innocent book. I thought, these Americans, they are easily shocked."
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