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Two Babushkas

4.08  ·  Rating Details ·  200 Ratings  ·  21 Reviews
In the 1930s, as waves of war and persecution were crashing over Europe, two young Jewish women began separate journeys of survival. One, a Polish-born woman from Bialystok, where virtually the entire Jewish community would soon be sent to the ghetto and from there to Hitler’s concentration camps, was determined not only to live but to live with pride and defiance. The oth ...more
Published May 16th 2005 by Bloomsbury Publishing PLC (first published October 26th 2004)
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May 22, 2016 Dem rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
3.5 Stars

A memoir of two Jewish women and what it ment to be a Jew under Hitler's rule and equally brutal Stalin's rule. Researched and written by their grand-daughter Masha Gessen the book is rich in history and family research. I tend to enjoy this blend of historical depth with personal experiences and Ester and Ruzya stories are full of character and life as they bring us through the terrible times of the twentieth century. Books like this are important and tend to give a valuable insight

This is an amazing book. It is definitely getting 5 strs. Who should read it? Those who are interested in life in the Soviet Union starting from the 1930s all the way up to 2002 and those interested in the persecution of Jews in Poland prior to and during WW2. You have to be interested in these two subjects. This book packs an emotional punch. It is about motherhood, friendship and survival. About humor and of course history. It is about how people are SO different. Sure we can sea
Shonna Froebel
Nov 17, 2012 Shonna Froebel rated it really liked it
I've started to go back to one of my earlier book lists and read books that I put on the list years ago. This is one of them. Finally tracked down a used copy.
Masha was born in Russia, but emigrated to the United States with her parents and younger brother when she was a young teen in 1981. She had fond memories of her grandmothers and went back to Russia as a young journalist to spend time with them. She became intrigued with their stories and managed to get a grant to write this book. She has
Jul 09, 2010 Kerry rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I like that this granddaughter investigates and writes about the personal experience of her grandmothers during World War II and their experiences in Russia and Poland. I really like both the grandmothers' (Ester and Ruzya)stories. They are determined, intelligent and have a zest for living. I have read a good number of books that take place in Germany and the different perspective was interesting. The difference between Ester and Ruzya's stories were frequently difficult to follow. Unfortunatel ...more
May 13, 2013 Lene rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: memoir, world-war-2
I found a lot of food for thought in this book despite its mediocre writing. Stories of WW2 are endlessly fascinating to me; I am amazed at both the victim's strength & the victimizer's capacity for evil. Where those 2 roles overlap, the ethics get murky and dirty and real.
Apr 25, 2012 Sarah rated it liked it
Shelves: read-shelves
What I know of the Soviet Union is confined to the lesson plans of my Higher history class. This book offered so much more than that, and the family love which flows between the lines stops it from ever being dry. Informative, with a heart of gold.
Dec 20, 2008 Florence rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A fascinating account of persecution by the Nazis and the Soviets told in a very engaging style. Masha has the wisdom to be non-judgemental of her ancestors and the difficult compromises they had to make in order to survive.
Mary Arkless
This book was written by a young Russian woman whose parents emigrated when she was just eleven and took her and her brother with them. She thought she'd never see the rest of her family again. Then perestroika came and she found she could go back. She first went for a visit, then went for short stints for work, then moved ther. She got to know her grandmothers and learn their life stories. With their permission, she wrote this book.

Both families were/are ethnic Jews, one religious and Polish, t
Jul 07, 2016 Helen rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book deserves 10 stars or more... Coming from the same background as the author, being the same age, I know and feel the events she's describing all too well. I have a weird feeling being "back in USSR", asking my grandparents questions, looking for more answers, and still there are a lot of things only those who lived through this horror can understand. In all fairness, we should have started the project on the scale of Shoah Foundation, and record testimonies of the people who we still me ...more
Hilary Tesh
Sep 03, 2015 Hilary Tesh rated it it was amazing
Subtitled, "How my Grandmothers Survived Hitler's War and Stalin's Peace" this is a fascinating book and well worth reading.
Aug 13, 2014 Antonia rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This was a finely crafted, true and very compelling family saga through a trying era of history. It put faces and feelings on those caught in the impossible vise-grip of fascism and the fist of Stalin.
Mar 14, 2014 m_miriam rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography
I have such an intellectual crush on the author and this book just added to my endearment of her. This is a heart-breaking history, told with a lot of love and compassion, and it's just very well written. The author's family emphasized the nuances and complexities of history, both personal and political, that are generally ignored, forgotten, or discarded because they are too hard to sit with. This book makes me think differently about my family and the way they have lived their lives within con ...more
Shannon Wyss
Nov 23, 2013 Shannon Wyss rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An excellent biography of two Jewish women living in the USSR during and after World War II, one from Poland, the other from the Soviet Union itself. Reading the stories of individuals who survived the Holocaust is an incredibly powerful experience, and Gessen's book is no exception. And while i have read more than a few Holocaust-related memoirs, this is the only one i've read so focused on women in the USSR -- and so focused on women in general.

Highly recommended.
Apr 02, 2013 Pamela rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This book is not what I was expecting. There is a lot of shifting with personal comments throughout the book that are distracting. The book is organized chronologically, much of it based on the memories of Ester and Ruzya as told to the author, so it reads like a transcript of tapes. It takes a long time for all of this to come together. The writing style sounds like scholarly with its beautiful vocabulary, but it can get verbose.
May 29, 2014 Yulia rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
(review to come)
Angela Rose
Apr 01, 2009 Angela Rose rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: wwii-obsession
This book was so interesting to read in that the stories are memories shared by the writer's granmothers. Masha Gessen is a Russian journalist who has been the Russian correspondant to US News and World Report, she took some time from her career to spend with her grand mothers and record their story of living through this time in history.
Nov 20, 2012 Angela rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I learned a lot about living through a war and political oppression from this book, and its subjects had interesting lives. Doesn't have the expert pacing of a novel, because it isn't one. I dropped it like a rock with 20 pages to go when something better landed on my nightstand. Not sure if that says more about me or about the book.
Mar 02, 2015 Angela rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
The writing was not my favorite. The story was interesting. There doesn't seem to be many books from the Russian perspective so I learned a good deal.
Dec 27, 2010 Andie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Amazing story of how 2 women dealt with Hitler's Germany and did their best to stay out of trouble.
Feb 01, 2009 Heather rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A fascinating look at the lives of two Jewish women in Soviet Russia
Jan 23, 2013 Susy rated it it was amazing
learned alot and loved it
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Masha Gessen (born 1967) is a Russian journalist and author.
Born into an Ashkenazi Jewish family in Russia, in 1981 she moved with her family to the United States, returning in 1991 to Moscow where she lives now.[1] Her brother is Keith Gessen.
She writes in both Russian and English, and has contributed to The New Republic, New Statesman, Granta and Slate. Gessen is the Russian correspondent for US
More about Masha Gessen...

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