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Irene Grunbaum, née Levi, was born to a Jewish family in Darmstadt, Germany. She and her husband Bobby Eskenazi moved to Belgrade, Yugoslavia to escape the Nazi regime and were living there when World War II began. Her husband was captured and deported, and never seen again. Irene fled through the Balkans, disguised as a Muslim peasant woman, to Albania, where she hid for the rest of the war. Along her journey, she encountered numerous harrowing obstacles, including partisans, thieves, fascists, the risks of being a female traveling alone, poverty, and hunger. At the end of the war, she made her way to Rome and in 1947, emigrated to Brazil. Thhere she met and married Harry Grunbaum. Her autobiography, Escape Through the Balkans, shows a brutal and complex part of wartime Europe about which little has been written. It was discovered as an unpublished manuscript at the Institute of Austrian Resistance in Vienna by scholar Katherine Morris, who arranged for its publication by the University of Nebraska Press in 1996.
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