Masha Gessen: Ester and Ruzya How My Grandmothers Survived Hitler's War and Stalin's Peace

I d whetted my appetite for WWII related literature by watching a documentary series on Netflix My wife had purchased this book years ago so I picked it up and gave it a try First Ms Gessen is a very talented writer and she shares a compelling story I was probably looking for on the historical side of things than the book intended to give The book is really biographical as Gessen weaves together the narrative of her two grandmothers as they lived through WWII and the antisemitism of post war Russia It was a lovely tribute to her grandmothers but a bit difficult for me to follow as Gessen switched back and forth between Ruzya and Ester and their multiple family members somewhat numerous spouses tc Although it didn t provide the type of history I was hoping for it did describe the impact the war had on two families and I appreciated that aspect of the story I ve always been fascinated by stories that revolves around or centered on Hitler the Holocaust and the European Theater of WWII I ve also been fascinated by memoirs of people who lived during that time In Gessen s book I found myself immersed in both lovesThis is a captivating work is both a labor of love and cautionary tale for the rest of the world In using her grandmothers stories Gessen offers a peak behind the Iron Curtain before such a term Modern South Asia evenxisted We learn of a religious identity that drives one grandmother to clock a would be affair suare in the jaw for his anti Semitic views and share the pain of cross generational discrimination with her son We read of how the other grandmother felt when she became a part of the system knowing that Picture Theory each step she took tonsure some form of stability for her and her daughter disappointed her father This is a book th It s pretty rare for me to chew through non fiction this fast but I couldn t put this one downThe storyline follows the lives of the author s grandmothers both Jewish one from Moscow one from Poland from their birth through to the present day with a focus on how they survived WWII and Stalinist Russia The book illuminates their careers their loves their children It shows better than anything Ancestral Voices else I ve read what living in Russia inth 40s and 50s felt like and at its heart it s about choicesAt the very centre of the book in terms of page count are a set of potentially conflicting accounts of the actions of Gessen s great grandfather who was an And Bid Him Sing elder in a Nazi run ghetto in Poland The information is unclear possibly contradictory Was he a hero or a collaborator What choices did he make What choices did he have How did he die Each option isxplored conclusions are impliedThe ghetto story a microscale of the rest of the book in which his daughter and the woman who will Aristotle Detective (Aristotle eventually be her best friend the mother of the girl his grandson will marry make those choices their whole lives What is folding to the state compromising yourthics protecting your family staying alive Do you turn away a job for the secret police if that job will keep your baby from starving If you do what then If you don t what thenI m making this sound unrelentingly grim and certainly bad things happen in it and the central characters suffer but both of these women lived and Bones, Clones, and Biomes even thrived in a hostile state built careers and families and have children and grandchildren who did the same Maybe at it s heart it s also about growing potatoes on Mars survival against all oddsThe writing itself is gorgeous and compelling I hadn t run into Gessen before aside from anssay that pointed me to this book but I will be reading them again What I know of the Soviet Union is confined to the lesson plans of my Higher history class This book offered so much than that and the family love which flows between the lines stops it from Bringing the Empire Home ever being dry Informative with a heart of gold I found a lot of food for thought in this book despite its mediocre writing Stories of WW2 arendlessly fascinating to me I am amazed at both the victim s strength the victimizer s capacity for vil Where those 2 roles overlap the thics get murky and dirty and real I like that this granddaughter investigates and writes about the personal Building the Cold War experience of her grandmothers during World War II and theirxperiences in Russia and Pola I ve started to go back to one of my Canadian Art, Volume 1 (A-F) earlier book lists and read books that I put on the list years ago This is one of them Finally tracked down a used copyMasha was born in Russia butmigrated to the United States with her parents and younger brother when she was a young teen in 1981 She had fond memories of her grandmothers and went back to Russia as a young journalist to spend time with them She became intrigued with their stories and managed to get a grant to write this book She has moved back to Russia now herselfThis book follows her grandmothers from the 1920s to the 21st century Her grandmother Ester was born in Poland and moved to Russia to study after the beginning of World War II Her grandmother Rozalia was born in Moscow They are both Counter-Amores ethnic Jews not religious but labelled different by the Russian governmentThe book follows them from girlhood through World War II hardships marriage children job hunting widowhood social ostracism and much Masha has been able to coax an amazing amount of detail out of her grandmothers and adds historical research and personal papers to her resources to fill out the stories These are very interesting women who have had very interesting lives A fascinating account of persecution by the Nazis and the Soviets told in a veryngaging style Masha has the wisdom to be non judgemental of her ancestors and the difficult compromises they had to make in order to survive NO SPOILERSThis is an amazing book It is definitely getting 5 strs Who should read it Those who are interested in life in the Soviet Union starting from the 1930s all the way up to 2002 and those interested in the persecution of Jews in Poland prior to and during WW2 You have to be interested. 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 Dancing at Armageddon 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 wouldventually become a high level censor under Stalin’s regime At war’s Double Jeopardy end both women found themselves in Moscow where informers lurked onvery 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 ach other with th.

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In these two subjects This book packs an motional punch It is about motherhood friendship and survival About humor and of course history It is about how people are SO different Sure we can search for reasons but we are simply born different This is not to say that one is good and the other bad Both Rozalia and Ester were wonderful and yet very very different from Cezanne and Provence each other You will learn so much about life in the Soviet Union through the lives of these two remarkable women and their families The prose isngaging funny and philosophical This is Dark Voices exactly the kind of book I adore I loved this so much I don t want to leave the subject Now I will start The Family Mashber It IS fiction Could it possibly be as good as this biography Through page 248 The grandmothers have met finally Now I know who is who on the cover of my book 0 You come to love these two womenThrough page 244 This book isn t a light read It is stuffed with facts both about life in Bialystok Poland and in Russia after the war Also in Turkmenistan It is about two grandmothers and howach survived Hitler s war and Stalin s peace just as the title indicates There is a Russian word spasat sia which means literally to save oneself but to do it on a regular basis That such a word xists in a particular language says something about the culture of the people using this language This word and the Russian word for hunger vprogolod are central to what this book is about The two grandmothers have still not met The point is much that although these two women were similar in many ways they chose different ways of surviving It is the analysis of WHY these two women made such different choices that is riveting Let me say very clearly neither one was the hero and the other the traitor That is what you will learn Well that is merely my feeling Others may disagree Being a censor in Stalin s Russia has both its ups and sowns Very interesting reading Through page 202 This is ridiculous I mark sentences that I feel I must uote but there are so many The writing makes me alternately laugh cry or takes my breath away What is said is so hoestly true perceptive heart wrenching Between the motional lines you get the historical facts and discussions on how different Divided by Color (American Politics and Political Economy Series) events have been debated So no uotes I ve givennough No two short lines This is the Creating Country Music essence of living the skill of grasping whatever joy comes your way page 198 now she knows from her own life how happiness comes in tiny bursts Like a good book page 200No Read the book instead Through Page 152 I appreciate the author s analysis of what is behind the choices made byach of her grandmothers A bit less than half way through the book I have mostly learned about Ester s choices I admire her zest for life and her spunk I admire her honesty and ability to clearly see the importance of the support she received from her mother AndMaybe she is reluctant to judge knowing precisely how difficult it was for her to stand her ground page 140 Read the book description under the title Ester and Ruzya How My Grandmothers Survived Hitler s War and Stalin s Peace It is much relevant to the point of the book than that given for the title of Two Babushkas Again on the theme of hunger Hunger is accepting the humiliation of a biscuit from him She concentrates on taking small indifferent bites page 128On the all pervading fear characteristic of these timesThere was a misunderstanding between Ester and Major Gurov and at the center of this misunderstanding was fear The most important instrument of control in the soviet Union was fear page 129In the beginning of the book Blacklands each chapter switched between the two grandmothers This was a bit confusing It is muchasier to follow as you get further into the book where the story focuses one one grandmother at a time They still have not met There is no map which is bad But drag out your atlases instead There is so much to learn I hadve never before read about how lettersenvelopes were triangular in the Soviet Union at this time Another thing that is bad is that the book lacks photographsThrough page 119 It is made strikingly clear that what hppens to an individual is most often completely outside of their control The good and the bad just fall down on you from above In Moscow Ester is studying and has found friends With the Germans approaching from the west for many Poles Russia was the only alternative available Ester s roomate and friend Eda was very lucky when a pilot saw her photograph and fell in love with her They never Evolutionary Patterns even met And what happens He decides he has no need for his large pay there on the front and sent it to Eda What happens next He is killed and another bank transfer an astronomical sum of money was sent to Eda From living with hunger they now delight in wine and food real foood War and food or lack thereof are so closely knit From page 108Somewhere around that time she first heard the word vprogolod It means a life of hunger not the crisis of famine but the habitual year to year day to day painful light headedness and a sucking sensation in thesophagus This was how they livedBefore the lucky star fell from the skyWhat you notice is that people are just ordinary people Evolution As Entropy even in the worst of times Here is this pilot falling in love with a girl he has never seen The need to hold someone dear is sossential to life Here are Eda and Ester buying food and wine with comments such as page 109She has never been a wine drinker before but she can become one now I also like how history is seamlessly woven into the tale page 109As it happened just as she was sentenced in August 1941 The Soviet Union signed a co operation agreement with occupied Poland s government in xile and in conjunctionwith that move declared amnesty for all Polish citizens in labor camps prisons and special settlements on Soviet territory Many of them including the future Israeli prime minister Menachem Begin left the Soviet Union in the ranks of an army forme. Eir lives In this deeply moving family memoir journalist Masha Gessen tells the story of her two beloved grandmothers Ester the uicksilver 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 xacted 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 brotherWith grace candor and meticulous research Gessen peels back the layers of secrecy surrounding her grandmothers’ lives As she follows them thro.

D by Polish general Wladislaw Anders The rest like Bella remained in the Soviet Union through the warTime and time again what happens to just you is pure luck Will you be one of the lucky few Through page 66 Life during the Great Terror 1937 1940 under Stalin is better understood when the reader see the Forbidden History effects on Ester s and Rozalia s lives and that of their families The capriciousness of fate hits you There is no rhyme or reason as to who gets caught and who slips free However fear is a constant that all feel Page 52No one came that night for Moshe or for Rozalia or for Boba or anyonelse in the gang But Moshe continued to wait and so did Rozalia just as thusands of people in the Soviet Union waited Fiche Blian ag Fás every night unable to sleep think or make love always listening for the carngine in the courtyard the steps on the stairs and the banging on the doorI am wondering how it would feel to read this book having lived through these timesThere is no map so be sure you have an atlas within reach I would have also appreciated photos Through page 21 I Esteem Enlivened by Desire enjoy learning about the author s family the two central characters being her two grandmothers RozaliaRuzya is the mother of the author s father Sasha Ester is the mother of her Mom Yalochka Rozalia and Ester have been friends long before their childrenver married There is a long history preceding the familial tieing of the two families In 1981 the author Masha and her parents Flights of Fancy, Leaps of Faith emigrated She was 14 at the time Now 10 years later Masha has returned as a jounalist and will meet again those of her tightly knit family And both her grandmothers Finally in 1994 she moved permanently back to Moscow As an adult going back to where she grew up was tumuluous wrought with fear and delight It was then her grandmothers told her the stories of their lives in fuller detail It is these stories that constitute the book I haven t read many pages but I immediately have learned the importance of family in Russian life Being family is both an obligation and a joy You need the help of your family in a way that is perhaps hard for a Westerner to comprehend I assume this will be shown to me in the following pages Ester s family was from Bialystok Poland Rozalia s from Moscow Between the wars Bialystok was the city in Poland with the largest community of Jews That is where the tale begins This is not fiction Ester s Hasidic Jewish parents were atheists one working for the Zionist cause the other for the integration of the Jews into Polish life an activist in the Bund the Jewish workers party in Poland It was Ester s father who was the Zionist and her mother the Bundist As in real life people who loveachother do not always think the same Other interests tied them their daughter Ester of course I like that these people reflect the possibility of loving and still not necessarily agreeing or doing things in the same way Then fate also sticks its hand in the jumble and the result is life I will not tell you what happens to them and I do not know much of the total story yet I njoy learning about the Jewish traditions in Bialystok in the 1930s Here too in this city a center of Jewish thought and life in Poland discrimination was clearly vident Ester is a well developed young teenager the boys are definitely interested In the summer mother and daughter Bella and Ester leave Bialystok for country life Here is a tast of the prose both from page 21Bella and Ester have taken a room with a terrace in a large private home since far to many of the pensions now announce alongside their name No dogs or Jews Ester s father comes to visit them They Shall Be One Flesh every weekend He is driving toward their lodging Remember fathers will be fathersNow Jakub waves to Ester and visibly picks up speed as he approaches the house Now he bounds up the stairs Now he traverses the terracein two leeping steps grabs the young man by the collar and holds him suspended in mid air like a small animal for a split second before stepping back toward the stairway and sending the charming conversationalist tumbling downMaude you are probably way ahead of me already It is good isn t it Before starting For clarity s sake Ester and Ruzya and Two Babushkas are the same I will be reading this book with Maude 0 We both have highxpectations We will share our thoughts with The Heritage of Arabo-Islamic Learning eachother in the messages below this review If we think that which we say is a spoiler we will add a SPOILER WARNING to the message I am hoping that Maude will also write a review and that I can leave messages there too Anybody intererested in joing in on the discussion is welcomeThe setting is Poland and Russia The book is a biography of the author s two grandmothers who survived Hitler s war and Stalin s peace 35 Stars A memoir of two Jewish women and what it ment to be a Jew under Hitler s rule andually brutal Stalin s rule Researched and written by their grand daughter Masha Gessen the book is rich in history and family research I tend to Hereward (Hereward, enjoy this blend of historical depth with personalxperiences and Ester and Ruzya stories are full of character and life as they bring us through the terrible times of the twentieth century Books like this are important and tend to give a valuable insight to family life lived through these dark and dangerous years In the 1930s as waves of war and persecution were crashing over Europe two young Jewish women began separate journeys of survival One became a hero in her childrens and grandchildren s Under One Sky eyes and the other a collaboratorThis book was a really interesting read but having said that I had a difficult time initially connecting with the story as the difference between Ester and Ruzya s stories were initially difficult to follow and I found myself at times confused as to whose story was whose By 100 pages the story did come together and the second half of the book worked better for meI had this book sitting on my bookshelf for a long time and was glad to have finally had an opportunity to read it. Ugh this remarkable period in history from the Stalin purges to the Holocaust from the rise of Zionism to the fall of communism she describes howach 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 motion 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 xtraordinary testament to the bonds of family and the power of hope love and Groom and Doom endurance From the Hardcoverditi.

Masha Gessen born 1967 is an American Russian journalist translator and nonfiction author They identify as non binary and use theythem pronouns Born into an Ashkenazi Jewish family in Russia in 1981 they moved with their family to the United States to escape anti Semitism They returned in 1991 to Moscow where they worked as a journalist and covered Russian military activities during the