A rare view of a childhood in a European ghetto. Anna Spector was born in 1905 in Korsun, a Ukrainian town on the Ros River, eighty miles south of Kiev. Held by Poland until 1768 and annexed by the Tsar in 1793 Korsun and its fluid ethnic population were characteristic of the Pale of Settlement in Eastern Europe: comprised of Ukrainians, Cossacks, Jews and other groups living uneasily together in relationships punctuated by violence. Anna's father left Korsun in 1912 to immigrate to America, and Anna left in 1919, having lived through the Great War, the Bolshevik Revolution, and part of the ensuing civil war, as well as several episodes of more or less organized pogroms - deadly anti-Jewish riots begun by various invading military detachments during the Russian Civil War and joined by some of Korsun's peasants. In the early 1990s Anna met Lawrence A. Coben, a medical doctor seeking information about the shtetls to recapture a sense of his own heritage. Anna had near-perfect recall of her daily life as a girl and young woman in the last days in one of those historic but doomed communities. Her rare account, the product of some 300 interviews, is valuable because most personal memoirs of ghetto life are written by men. Also, very often, Christian neighbors appear in ghetto accounts as a stolid peasant mass assembled on market days, as destructive mobs, or as an arrogant and distant collection of government officials and nobility. Anna's story is exceptionally rich in a sense of the Korsun Christians as friends, neighbors, and individuals. Although the Jewish communities in Eastern Europe are now virtually gone, less than 100 years ago they counted a population of millions. The firsthand records we have from that lost world are therefore important, and this view from the underrecorded lives of women and the young is particularly welcome.
- Paperback | 264 pages
- 152.4 x 228.6 x 20.32mm | 430.91g
- 15 Apr 2011
- The University of Alabama Press
- Alabama, United States
Other books in this series
"Using hundreds of interviews . . . Coben has created a fascinating account of Anna's childhood in the shtetl in Korsun, Ukraine, telling the story from her birth in 1905 through her immigration to America in 1919. This biography is especially rare because there are very few firsthand descriptions from this time and place written from a female perspective. With remarkable clarity and detail, Anna describes the relationship between Korsun's Jews and Christians, both in good times and later, as she and her family became victims in several terrifying pogroms. The story of the long journey that finally takes them to America is a page-turner that keeps the reader's attention to the very end. Highly recommended."--Association of Jewish Libraries Newsletter "A fascinating, well-written work describing Anna Spector's life in a Ukranian shtetl during the early 20th century and her escalating tribulations in the violent political turbulence. Dr. Coben's standard for verification of Anna's account is both stringent and prodigious. The scope and particulars of shtetl life are detailed with cogency and scholarly authentication."--Joann Rose Leonard, author of The Soup Has Many Eyes "Wondrous. . . . What makes [Anna] Dien's story truly remarkable is her uncanny memory and her ability to recall minute details about events."--West End Word
About Lawrence A. Coben
Lawrence A. Coben, M.D., is Associate Professor Emeritus of Neurology at Washington University in Saint Louis.