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by Magdalena Ball
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The 154-page book has been published since January 1, 2023.
Magdalena, born in NY, later emigrated to New South Wales in Australia, where she now resides. She is the editor of the popular review site "Compulsive Reader" which has some 2,800 reviews and over a hundred podcast episodes, including interviews.
His writings have won or been shortlisted, locally and internationally for poetry and fiction.
The story took me to present-day Western Belarus, where Rebecca (Rivka) and her family are from.
Rivka - the heroine and the arr grandmother of Magdalena - is forced to flee her country at the age of 14, in 1907, and leave her elderly parents there. She will then escape the terrible genocide to come: Operation Barbarossa of 1942, where 90% of the Jews of Belarus will be massacred!
I learned a lot by reading it!
I also read there what was "The movement of the Hundred Blacks", appeared at the pivotal time, before and after the Russian revolution of 1905. They were dozens of far-right monarchical organizations, financed by the government. They were most active in the Jewish provinces, and had the massive support of the Russian bourgeoisie, Russian Orthodox clergy and influential aristocrats.
Also, the western regions known as the Settlement Area since the partitions of Poland (in the 1790s) had brought a large number of Jews under Russian rule: the "pale settlement", which consisted of "parking" the Jews within a well-demarcated territory: the Pale covered an area of approximately 1 million square kilometers (386,100 sq mi) from the Baltic Sea to the Black Sea.
This meant the borders within which the permanent residence of Jews was allowed (from 1791 following the first partition of Poland, to 1917). Beyond these places, Jewish residence, permanent or temporary, was mostly forbidden!
- One of the consequences of the Pale was a tendency to restrict the marriage of Jews, not only to other Jews, but often in practice to those who frequented the same synagogue! Hence a consanguinity, induced by marriages within the same clan.
On the black soil of Russia flooded with drama, and through the voice of her mother who emigrated to American soil, via Ellis Island, Magdalena Bal shares her painful story with us. Her journey since her arrival in America, her dreams, her hopes for a job... and her meeting with the man who will become her own father... She then loses her last certainties!
It is a terrible observation, always experienced in the unspeakable and with superhuman dignity! This young mother devoted to her children, the last of whom is... a daughter: the very one who reveals to us here, the sacrifice made by her mother, a modest seamstress and reader of "tea", so that her daughter may have a chance to get out!
It's heartbreaking, and absolutely heartbreaking! I did not leave my seat until I had completed this age-old memoir-poetry!
From this impressive confession, intimate and haunting, the pains of exile are depicted with raw realism, without ever stooping to tears! No trace of whining, inflamed diatribes or revenge on the fate of the Jews!
On the contrary, the author expresses himself with a rare decency, in a soft atmosphere, marked by an elegant poetry, sometimes serious, always justified. A pure delight to read!
Never would I have imagined that poetry could deliver the soul from its obsessive tortures!
The ordeal of this audacious woman, told in the form of poetry, almost timidly, almost in a whisper, triumphs over barbarism and obscenity, and bears witness to the altar of holocausts, which occurred just a few years later.
I loved the multiple allegories, such:
"Craggy borders against the Baltic Sea
Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, Belarus
carved up and served like brisket
to russia and Prussia."
"When the boat docked, the city opened from the deck in blue cobwebs, spirals, tunnels"
"She folded her story into fabric grated it into potato latkes spoke softly, a girlish voice in a language you almost certainly wouldn't recognize (though it does exist, seeping in through the cracks in time)."
"Faith is a fickle beast
its absence thick and dark as a bear."
A visceral writing where the author gives the free power of his talent and a sharp intensity over the pages!
Read it! It's simply beautiful and unforgettable! Transcendent! Thank you Magdalena!
Bobish is the epic life story of Rebecca a migrant-girl. Torn from fear-ridden Eastern Europe she is swept along, accross mountainous waves to an unknown future in the land of the free.
It could be a rags to riches story... instead it’s a life of horror, pain, neglect and abuse; yet despite dark-forces buffeting this young hopeful’s life, love shines eternal.
Below crushing poverty Rebecca's life is rich in language, memory and culture.
Ball has written a short and not so sweet love-story to her great grandmother. Ball explores the journey from grimy villages filled with anti-semitism in the old country to the bustle and exploitation of the new, York early in the 1900s. It paints her mother’s mother’s mother Rebecca full of beauty, wonder and strength.
While sparse of word it is evocative. Bobish plumbs the depth of belonging, dislocation and longing. Ball brings sights, sounds, smells, tastes and touch into focus - sometimes with a thud.
Bobish is brilliant. A short life in six acts, sixty-four poems filling the void and not a single forced rhyme. Bobish is beautiful. A great achievement.
Though she was only fourteen years old, like many other Jews in Eastern Europe's Pale of Settlement in 1907, Rebecca Lieberman gathered her few belongings and left for the United States. What follows is a unique and poetic story of history, war, mysticism, music, abuse, survival and transcendence against the backdrop of New York City in the '20s, '30s and '40s.
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The key part of her story is never explained in the book -- I only knew the context because of the publisher's blurb. The author is writing about her great-grandmother, envisioning the life of a woman that died before she was born.