Wednesday, April 23, 2008

My Bridges of Hope

Bitton-Jackson, Livia. 1999. My Bridges of Hope.

My Bridges of Hope is the sequel to I Have Lived A Thousand Years. It is the middle book in a trilogy of the author's memoirs. (Though each book can and does stand alone just fine.) The book opens with Elli Friedmann and her mother and brother returning to their home town of Samorin after they were liberated by the Russian soldiers. Unlike some of the other returning Jews, they did find their home relatively intact. Stripped of furniture, yes, but still standing. The neighbors are shocked, extremely shocked to see them again. Shocked that they're living skeletons. But most of their closest neighbors are helpful. They give what they can, do what they can to make the Friedmann's home habitable again. This doesn't mean that every neighbor is this nice. And it doesn't mean that the family's possessions are returned from the neighbors who took them for safekeeping at the beginning of the war. But a few are ethical enough to return and restore.

"Out of Samorin's more than five hundred Jewis citizens, only thirty-six returned, mostly young men and women. Those who did not--our children, parents, grandparents, siblings, husbands, wives, aunts, uncles, cousins, friends, and lovers--have been replaced by an abyss." (18)

Imagine that if you will. Really think about it. My Bridges of Hope tells the stories of those in between years. Those years between 1945 and 1951 when Elli was growing up in such a strange and foreign environment. It looked a bit like her old home, her old town. But so many people missing, so many new people in their place, so many strangers--the Russians, the Communists coming to town and taking over. Nothing is ever the same, nothing could ever be the same.

In these years, Elli dreams of going to Israel. At the beginning of the book, it isn't even a state or nation yet. But the dreams, the Zionist dreams, are there both in Elli and in her friends. But it is decided that America will be their destination, if they can get in.

These are years of waiting and years of growing. A turbulent time of changing for Elli as she matures from a fourteen year old girl into a young woman of nineteen or twenty. The book records her hopes, her dreams, her loves, her losses, her disappointments.

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