Our Father’s Voice: a Holocaust Memoir (self-published, $18), a riveting chronicle of Holocaust survivor Andrzej Bialecki (Salomon Lederberger), results from the painstaking work of Bialecki’ daughter, Felicia Graber, and his son, Dr. Leon Bialecki, who carefully transcribed and edited over 12 hours of interviews conducted back in 1981 by Kenneth Jacobson.
Jacobson, author of Embattled Selves (The Atlantic Monthly Press, 1994), interviewed Andrzej Bialecki while researching the Jewish identity among Holocaust survivors. He was impressed by Mr. Bialecki remarkable eye for detail, his unfaltering memory, and his extraordinary honesty.
Two years ago, Felicia Bialecki-Graber published Amazing Journey: Metamorphosis of a Hidden Child (self-published, $15), which details her own nightmarish journey during the Holocaust. In that book, she recounts how being born in Tarnow, Poland in March 1940, a few months after the German invasion, she and her parents survived the war.
She recalls her father as “a unique individual. He managed to guide my mother, me and himself through the war years with minimal outside help. The three of us came through only because of his ingenuity and guts. He always managed to stand on his own two feet. He pulled himself up by his proverbial boot straps twice even in the difficult years after liberation. I am a ‘baby survivor’ of the Holocaust,” she recounts, “born after the Germans occupied my native Poland. I did not know I was Jewish until I was seven years old, nor did I know that the man I called ‘uncle’ was my biological father. I learned the story of our survival mainly from him.”
Graber also has high praise for her mother, “a heroine in her own right. She managed to blend into a foreign environment along with me – her then two-year-old daughter – and later hide her husband in our one-room apartment.”
Her story is described as “a tale of parallel odysseys: one, across continents and cultures, from surviving Nazi occupation, to living an integrated, full life in America; the other, a compelling coming-of-age story of a shy Polish child who transforms herself in her sixties into a successful, accomplished woman.” The book has also been praised as an example of a “feminist Holocaust memoir.”
Graber’s moving and compellingly written memoir attracted the attention and praise of Sir Martin Gilbert, the acclaimed British historian and author. In his foreword to Graber’s book, Gilbert writes, “Felicia Graber has written a remarkable memoir that holds the reader’s attention from first to last.”
In Our Father’s Voice, a Holocaust Memoir, Felicia’s brother, Dr. Leon Bialecki, a critical care specialist, describes his father before the war as “an unlikely hero.” He remarks that “Nothing seemed to have prepared our father for the impending onslaught. There were no hints, no indication that he would rise to such levels of heroism and moral grandeur. Circumstances propelled him to unimaginable feats, which he took for granted.” It is the story of Andrzej’s bravery, heroism and determination to help not only himself and his family but also his fellow Jews.
As one reads through the text of this remarkable memoir, it almost feels as if one is sitting across the table with Bialecki himself as his story unfolds with incredibly detailed descriptions of his experiences. One of many examples is his description of “The First Deportation.” Bialecki recounts:
“At first, we were under the illusion that they were taking us to work, which is what we were told, that they were taking us to the Ukraine or somewhere near the Ukraine-Polish border. Instead, everyone was sent to Belzec and that nobody survived: everybody had been gassed. That is what a Polish railroad employee found out and he came back to me with that information. Later on, I found out that my father received a shot in the neck. He had rheumatism, and the Germans wanted him to jump on to a truck. But he could not do that. He was 60 years old, born on May 5, 1882. And so they shot him. This is a comfort to me because he did not have to suffer like my mother. Millions of Jews had to take that road of suffering.”