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September, 1939. Przemysl, Poland. No one has explained to three-year-old Renatka what war is. She knows her Tatus, a doctor, is away with the Polish Army, that her beautiful Mamusia is no longer allowed to work at the university, and that their frequent visitors-among them Great Aunt Zuzia and Uncle Julek with their gifts of melon and clothes-have stopped appearing. One morning Mamusia comes home with little yellow six-pointed stars for them to wear. Renatka thinks they will keep her family safe.
In June of 1942, soldiers in gray-green uniforms take Renata, Mamusia, and grandmother Babcia to the Ghetto where they are crammed into one room with other frightened families. The adults are forced to work long hours at the factory and to survive on next to no food. One day Mamusia and Babcia do not return from their shifts.
Six years old and utterly alone, Renata is passed from place to place and survives through the willingness of ordinary people to take the most deadly risks. Her unlikely blonde hair and blue eyes and other twists of fate save her life but stories become her salvation. Hans Christian Andersen's fairy tales transport her to an enchanted world; David Copperfield helps her cope on her own; and she longs for the family in Swallows and Amazons.
A chronicle of the horrors of war, Let Me Tell You a Story is a powerful and moving memoir of growing up in a disturbing world, and of the magical discovery of books.
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Renata Calverley was born in Poland. With a B.A. from Nottingham University and a Diploma in Education from London University Institute of Education, she taught English for thirty-five years. She is an accomplished public speaker, regularly giving talks about her life and experiences to a variety of organizations. Calverley has two daughters and lives in Oxford with her husband, Bruce.From Publishers Weekly:
In a burnished memoir, Calverley, a retired English teacher in Oxford, England, recreates her wartime years in Poland in the voice of a young, well-to-do Jewish child who is separated from her mother and shunted off to various safe houses. Blond-haired and blue-eyed, Calverley had grown up in Przemysl, the only child of a doctor who enlisted with the Polish army and a mother who taught literature at the university. After the Nazi invasion of 1939, the family was relocated to the ghetto and forced to wear yellow stars, and the mother was dismissed from her teaching job, leaving the child uncomprehending and profoundly shaken. Her mother and grandmother were taken away in September 1943, and Calverley, then nearly six, was abandoned to a series of caretakers—from her former wet nurse Marynia, who got her out of the ghetto under her skirts, to various relatives and Polish partisans, who are portrayed with particular brutishness. A stint in a nasty orphanage with a horrid older bully named Jorik capped Calverley's episodic wartime saga. She makes it through these difficult years by losing herself in books—favorites include works by Hans Christian Andersen and Charles Dickens—until finally being rescued by her doting aunt and uncle back in Przemysl. Calverley's memoir is no fairy tale—she brings the horrors of war vividly to life—but her survival is miraculous. (Nov.)
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