Anna Rosner Blay

You see them every day of the week in the shops and streets of Elwood and Caulfield. Immaculately groomed women, in their 80s now, they shop, they talk, they laugh. But if you ever have the opportunity of touching the faint blue numbers tattooed on their arms, as Anna Rosner Blay has, then you go to the territory of their past, where lies one of the greatest obscenities of the 20th century, the Holocaust.


Rosner Blay has interviewed four such women and asked them an extraordinarily important question – how, after sustaining such a huge physical and emotional assault, did they manage to forge a life for themselves in a brash new country where other people had no idea of who they were, how much they had suffered?


For Rosner Blay, the answer was vital. Her own life had become painfully dislocated: she was suffering from the breakdown of her marriage of 33 years; she too had to find a safe harbour. But her situation was complicated by the fact that she is the child of Holocaust survivors. These women are her parents’ friends. Typical of children of survivors, the problem Rosner Blay had to confront was that, given her state of comparative comfort and security, did she have a right to lay claim to suffering in the first place?


In this compelling journal of suffering and triumph, Rosner Blay writes with intelligence, elegance and profound compassion. Along the way, she makes pertinent comparisons between the way her parents and their friends were treated by the Australian government and our present attitude to the influx of refugees. If the kindness of strangers is the hallmark of civilisation then yes, of course, we should be kinder


Dianne Dempsey - Saturday 1st May 2004