Krystyna Carmi's childhood was full of happy moments in the family house. Her childhood was filled with friends, both Polish and Ukrainian girls, that played games with her. She attended a Ukrainian school, participated in school celebrations; she lived a normal, everyday life. In her memoir, published after many years of silence, Krystyna Carmi shows the history of her family and her life. Krystyna was gifted with an amazing memory and as such was able to recall the atmosphere of those days, describing in details the appearance of a household; and if that wasn’t enough, Krystyna Carmi writes about something very rare, the smells she remembered from childhood. Walking with her on the streets of pre-war Obertyn, we get to know the Jews, the Ukrainians, and the Poles and the social and material conditions of their lives, as well as their names and surnames. Krystyna Carmi paints a psychological portrait of these people; she writes about how they dressed, what they ate, what their attitude towards others was, and above all, towards God. She writes about things seemingly trivial, however when looking back, they are incredibly significant. But the happy childhood did not last long. The first days of war brought overall fear and panic, the entrance of Red Army soldiers to Obertyn, the arrest of Polish patriots, liquidation of Jewish shops, the gradual growth into a more difficult reality of occupation, the Hungarian army in Obertyn, Jews murdered by Ukrainians in the local towns, incredible photos of the members of the Jewish community, drowning in the Dniester by Ukrainians. However, the worst was still ahead of the Jewish community in Obertyn and her family. First, the Germans, then the Kołomyja ghetto. She was with her parents as well as her maternal and paternal grandfathers. The life conditions in which Obertyn Jews had to live are described in the poem Molasa "Ghetto Sweets"; she shows in a fictile, detailed way, psycho physical suffering caused by hunger. People died in the ghetto because of hunger and physical exhaustion; their bodies were collected on a platform. These deaths do not escape the attention of a sensitive and suffering girl, who years later will write a poem with the title In Remembrance of Innocently Suffering People of Different Ages and Sexes from Kołomyja Ghetto; a picture of the platform will stay in her memory forever. "The open mouth and eyes of these human corpses have been hunting me all my life." Then she returned from the ghetto with her parents, and escaped from Obertyn, following by her sisters’ death, which she described in a very suggestive way in her poems: Black Kamionka Forest. Part I Testimony and Black Kamionka Forest. Part II Curse). Her parents’ death, hiding, hunger, thirst, fear for life, then indifference as time goes by because life is hard. It would be easier to part with the world, but The Strange Ways of Providence in her Life has chosen for her to live, to be. This is how you could present in short, the content of Krystyna Carmi’s memoire. The memoire are interspersed with the cover of Doctor Markus Willbach, a friend of the Sorger family to emphasize the authenticity of Krystyna Carmi’s (maiden name: Sorger) memories as the images, situations, and events witnessed by her as a little girl coincide with Doctor Willbach’s account, an adult at that time.
Books of this nature, are one of my favorite...true life accounts of the past. We only learn so much about things like the Holocaust, and the war, during history class, but there is so much more to be heard. The true lessons, the true adventures (if that's what you want to call them), come from the memories of those that experienced it first hand. Krystyna Carmi, shares her experiences; her memories, in this book.
In my opinion, this book if written in a way that makes it seem as if, as the memories came to her, they were written down. There are times when you will jump from one memory to the next, and times when you feel as if something might have been left out. However, you get a deep, intimate look at this girls life during one of the most horrific times in our Worlds history.
To grow up, and still have the memory of corpses burned into your memory...those that died from starvation, mouths agape. Memories of soldiers doing horrific things to friends and family. Memories of having your parents die at age 11, and a sister at age 12...these are all things that she experienced, and almost broke her.
Imagine having gone through so much at such a young age, that you have all but given up, and are wishing for death. I can not thank Krystyna Carmi enough, for being brave enough to open her memories to the rest of the world. I know that the writing n this book is raw in format, but I find that to be equally as important to the overall flow of this book. This woman is speaking from her heart, and reliving things that none of us could ever imagine.