COME SPRING by Maria Lewitt


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Though lacking the emotive stretch and depth of Hannah Demetz's The House on Prague Street, this autobiographical tale of a young half-Jewish girl's survival during Poland's Nazi terror has a similar youthful, restless immediacy. When Irena's Jewish father dies after being beaten in the streets of Lodz by a German officer, Mother, older sister Tania, and Irena join the exodus to Warsaw--where Aunt Olga begs them to leave the Jewish ghetto and stay with her and her second husband, Polish aristocrat ""Uncle"" Boyarski. And so the family lives in the garden-surrounded ""citadel"" of anti-Semite Boyarski, an eccentric aesthete who feeds his four parrots, presides formally over dinner in one of his threadbare but immaculate suits, and won't hear a word about the war. But then, for social reasons, it's back to the ghetto: Mother takes in a pair of Russian musicians who croon romantic songs; she has a nervous breakdown, recovers; Father's relatives appear; Warsaw becomes a death town--deportations, lists of doomed ""hostages,"" executions, suicides, two little boys shot on the street. Eventually, however, after narrow escapes from blackmailers, officials, and police, Mother uses forged papers and sheer brass to get them all back to Uncle Boyarski: they build an underground hidden bunker, establishing a bizarre domesticity while Uncle dies of cancer, Mother and Olga act as Polish-underground couriers, the women manage a lucrative vodka-making industry, and Irena falls in love. And finally, after seeing Jews perish amid Polish carnival hijinks (Lewitt takes caustic note of Polish anti-Semitism), there's bombardment, evacuation, close escapes. . . and anti-climactic liberation. With spirited narration, suspense, and some resourceful-and-racy women: an involving tale of terrible times that's leavened with irreverent humor.

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 1982
ISBN: 090801175X
Publisher: St. Martin's