Title : My Mother's Secret
Publisher : IUniverse
ISBN : 9781475962574
Rating : ****
Rating : ****
A lot has been chronicled about the events that led to World War II, the barbarity that many underwent during that time, the unhealed scars, the aftermaths of the war and widespread destruction that those years caused. This period is nothing short of a black mark on the face of humankind.
Having said that, if times like these bring out the worst in many, many rise much above the rest, forgetting their personal security and survival to epitomize a true human. These ordinary individuals with their compassion and sympathy become angels for others. And the more we read about such individuals the lesser it is. J.K. Witterick is one author who wanted to write to make a difference. Through 'My Mother's Secret', she brings out a courageous story of a mother and a daughter based on a true story in the times of Holocaust.
Franciszka takes a firm decision to leave Germany and her Nazi sympathizer husband for Poland when Hitler became chancellor in 1933. Her elder son Damian and daughter Helena are more than pleased to leave their father. Poland at that point was a melting pot of people who were Polish, Ukrainians and Jews, though all mistrusting each other.
Piece by piece Franciszka built a decent life for her children but it was not lost on them that Poland would soon be taken over by Germany and that happened in 1939 with complete invasion in 1941 disrespecting the pact that was signed by Hitler and Stalin.
Franciszka and Helena were not immune to the happenings around them either. They could chose to save their skin over being philanthropic but magnanimous hearts find it hard to see helplessness and yet remain inactive. They ended up hiding two Jewish families and a German soldier in their house for not just a day or two but for 20 odd months. All through this time Helena had to undergo a pain in the heart for hiding this secret from the love of her life, her fiancé.
The stories of Jewish families and that of German soldier build up separately and it is amazing to read how their paths led them to the house of their benefactress Franciszka. The foresightedness, intelligence and selflessness of the mother saw all of them through this difficult time and eventually all did come out from the hiding to lead their normal lives.
The book though set at the most unfortunate of times manages to evoke warm and uplifting feelings. After the story ends the readers are left with hope and belief in the goodness of individuals rather than bad taste for the savagery which dominated that time. My Mother's Secret is one of those books that are perfect to introduce young adults to the historical happenings. It is supposed to be the author's first creation yet she handles the subject with utmost care and sensitivity. A wonderful piece of writing.
Worth mentioning quotes are sprinkled all over the narrative and this goes on to reiterate how adversity brings out the best in people and how sometimes smooth sailing makes a race impassive.
A few excerpts from the book -
"If you choose to do the right thing, it’s a conscious decision at first. Then it becomes second nature."
"I always thought that courageous people were those who were not afraid. Meeting Franciszka and her daughter, I realize that
courageous people are afraid like everyone else. They just act despite the fear."