(A Story of a Certain Loneliness)
Joanna Wiszniewicz wrote in 1996 a memoir from “Alex”, an anonymous survivor of the Warsaw ghetto and three concentration camps – she interviewed him when he went back to Poland after more than 40 years in the US, and got from him a incredibly deep testimony. Now Regina Grol has translated it to English (And Yet I Still Have Dreams – A Story of a Certain Loneliness).
I am now reading the book, slowly. So far, what makes the book stand in sharp contrast to so many other Holocaust memoirs is the detached and reflexive tone, the fact that the interviewee’s voice, Alex’s voice, ponders on many subjects around what it really meant growing up as a Jewish Pole in prewar Warsaw. Not being a traditional Jew anymore, but not being a Pole – or at least not feeling fully as one, having a father who participated in Poland’s independence war, is at the same time comfortable as a Jew and as a citizen of the new country, but nevertheless knows that he is not “just another Pole”.
The book is perhaps (at least what I’ve read so far) the most phenomenologically aware account of the Holocaust I have ever read. Expectations, of oneself, of others, about identity, are discussed, calmly and with the distance of age. Case comparisons, between the two grand-fathers, between the mother and the father, and between all their approaches to modernity, to the paradox of becoming modern, as so many Eastern European Jews did during the first half of the last century, yet being still somehow part of a traditional culture, steeped in ways of doing things corresponding to other times.