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Ester and Ruzya: How My Grandmothers…
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Ester and Ruzya: How My Grandmothers Survived Hitler's War and Stalin's… (2004)

by Masha Gessen

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  cavlibrary | Jan 27, 2014 |
A passionately written memoir by a granddaughter on behalf of her two grandmothers who, being Jewish, survived Stalin's purges and the war. Both grandmothers ended up living in Moscow most of their lives, though they came from Poland and Ukraine in their 20s. I am not Jewish, but I feel extraordinary sympathy for the unfair treatment that the people of this ethnicity had to bear in the Soviet Union. I couldn't help but trace a parallel to my own parents - of the same generation, though not Jewish - from whom I couldn't elicit any memories of that stage of their lives (probably because I immigrated to the States when still in my 20s, and my parents are gone now...). This book was an eye-opener about that period (from 1920s to 1950s, time before I was born). Stalin's purges and persecution of Jews are horrible, and the author describes the lives of her two grandmothers in intimate details, having interviewed them and listened to their stories. A thought occurred to me as the author described the day Stalin died: I was about to be born in a couple of months after that...., so what was going through my mother's head as she was carrying me in at the last stages of pregnancy.... It was such a mixture of feelings for the whole nation - though not everybody at that time understood what a monster Stalin was, so the mourning was outstanding. The story goes on to the present day, and at the time of the book's publication in 2004 Masha Gessen is back in Moscow, in the company of her two grandmothers. She had returned to live there (after emigrating to US with her parents when she was 14), working as a reporter for an American magazine. It's a wonderful book. ( )
  Clara53 | Nov 10, 2009 |
A granddaugher's account of the survival of her Jewish grandmothers in the Soviet Union from the 1920s through the 1990s. Brings to life the terror of the purges and the contstant fear and oppression of the regime, told with great sensitivity. ( )
  BudaBaby | May 12, 2007 |
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THIS BOOK IS FOR MY CHILDREN
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0385336055, Paperback)

In the 1930s, as waves of war and persecution were crashing over Europe, two young Jewish women began separate journeys of survival. One, a Polish-born woman from Bialystok, where virtually the entire Jewish community would soon be sent to the ghetto and from there to Hitler’s concentration camps, was determined not only to live but to live with pride and defiance. The other, a Russian-born intellectual and introvert, would eventually become a high-level censor under Stalin’s regime. At war’s end, both women found themselves in Moscow, where informers lurked on every corner and anti-Semitism reigned. It was there that Ester and Ruzya would first cross paths, there that they became the closest of friends and learned to trust each other with their lives.

In this deeply moving family memoir, journalist Masha Gessen tells the story of her two beloved grandmothers: Ester, the quicksilver rebel who continually battled the forces of tyranny; Ruzya, a single mother who joined the Communist Party under duress and made the compromises the regime exacted of all its citizens. Both lost their first loves in the war. Both suffered unhappy unions. Both were gifted linguists who made their living as translators. And both had children—Ester a boy, and Ruzya a girl—who would grow up, fall in love, and have two children of their own: Masha and her younger brother.

With grace, candor, and meticulous research, Gessen peels back the layers of secrecy surrounding her grandmothers’ lives. As she follows them through this remarkable period in history—from the Stalin purges to the Holocaust, from the rise of Zionism to the fall of communism—she describes how each of her grandmothers, and before them her great-grandfather, tried to navigate a dangerous line between conscience and compromise.

Ester and Ruzya is a spellbinding work of storytelling, filled with political intrigue and passionate emotion, acts of courage and acts of betrayal. At once an intimate family chronicle and a fascinating historical tale, it interweaves the stories of two women with a brilliant vision of Russian history. The result is a memoir that reads like a novel—and an extraordinary testament to the bonds of family and the power of hope, love, and endurance.


From the Hardcover edition.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:46:56 -0400)

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"In the 1930s, as waves of war and persecution were crashing over Europe, two young Jewish women began separate journeys of survival. One, a Polish-born woman from Bialystok, where virtually the entire Jewish community would soon be sent to the ghetto and from there to Hitler's concentration camps, was determined not only to live but to live with pride and defiance. The other, a Russian-born intellectual and introvert, would eventually become a high-level censor under Stalin's regime. At war's end, both women found themselves in Moscow, where informers lurked on every corner and anti-Semitism reigned. It was there that Ester and Ruzya would first cross paths, there that they became the closest of friends and learned to trust each other with their lives.""In this family memoir, journalist Masha Gessen tells the story of her two beloved grandmothers: Ester, the quicksilver rebel who continually battled the forces of tyranny; Ruzya, a single mother who joined the Communist Party under duress and made the compromises the regime exacted of all its citizens. Both lost their first loves in the war. Both suffered unhappy unions. Both were gifted linguists who made their living as translators. And both had children - Ester a boy, and Ruzya a girl - who would grow up, fall in love, and have two children of their own: Masha and her younger brother. With meticulous research, Gessen peels back the layers of secrecy surrounding her grandmothers' lives. As she follows them through this remarkable period in history - from the Stalin purges to the Holocaust, from the rise of Zionism to the fall of communism - she describes how each of her grandmothers, and before them her great-grandfather, tried to navigate a dangerous line between conscience and compromise."--BOOK JACKET.… (more)

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