TILL THE BREAK OF DAY by Maia Wojciechowska


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In reviewing her childhood and early adolescent years as a refugee from Poland during World War II, Maia Wojciechowska avoids the pious solemnity that might be expected and concentrates on the small personal encounters and responses that absorbed her at the time. From the evidence here Maia was a perversely independent child, and her rebellious feelings and impulsive behavior are honestly recollected (though it seems at times that the author is still that defiant child, at other times that she reports her earlier intense emotions with a strange detachment). Maia's simultaneous longing for and resentment of her absent father come through without sentimentality, as does her attachment to older brother Zbyszek who shares her contempt for the other refugees and partakes in her self-directed resistance activities (stealing bicycles, etc.) in occupied France; then he suddenly and crushingly outgrows her, terming their former spirited harassment of the German soldiers childish and romantic. Later, melodramatically, at a hotel inhabited by displaced Poles, there is the mysterious and glamorous widow who courts both Maia and her brother separately and secretly and whom Maia, upon discovering the woman's passion for the boy, deliberately devastates by telling her she's old and merely pitied by Zbyszek. (If the author exaggerates here and elsewhere it is not to cast herself as a conventional heroine.) Though her reminiscences are not large enough to illuminate a people's experience of the war (a less self-preoccupied observer might have given us sharper -- if not necessarily more sympathetic -- sketches of her fellow refugees) or probing enough to break through her own fierce childhood defiance, they offer an individual view of how it was for one displaced child, determined to be herself even when that self is negatively defined.

Pub Date: Oct. 25th, 1972
Publisher: Harcourt, Brace Jovanovich