Amber Lehman's Reviews > Broken Birds, The Story of My Momila

Broken Birds, The Story of My Momila by Jeannette Katzir
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Jul 25, 2010

it was amazing
Read from July 25 to August 10, 2010

In “Broken Birds, The Story of My Momila” Jeannette Katzir has written a touching true story about the lasting and damaging effects of her family’s survival after the Holocaust.

Having lost her entire family (except her one older brother, Isaac) to the horrors of the Holocaust, Channa as a child has to learn from him how escape the Nazi’s—learning how to save scraps of food and any possession she has, to how to sleep in the snow, live in the forest and learning to fight. It’s a truly heartbreaking and terrifying time for her. These events would come to color and mold the adult she will become—trusting no strangers and always putting her family first.

When they finally flee to the US, Channa relishes the American lifestyle and adapts quickly. She eventually marries Nathan and has five children, one who is the narrator of the story, Jaclyn. Through her eyes we see how badly the events of the Holocaust has affected her mother. Channa is married but is terrified that at any moment and for any reason that her husband may leave her for “someone better.” She hides money throughout the house and in various banks in their safety deposit boxes, telling no one about her activities. Channa trusts no one and is always the voice of foreboding to her children, sabotaging their happiness with warnings that they too, can trust no one but family, and always seems to dash their dreams whenever they accomplish something positive. She seems to find faults in everyone. But she can also be generous too. When her attempts to dissuade her children to marry the spouse of their dreams fails, she actually relents and offers them a substantial amount of money to either buy their own home or start their own business. Despite her negativity, she is also the glue that holds the Poltzer family together.

But when Channa dies, the entire family basically falls apart. Bitter sibiling rivalry comes to the surface as they all try to renegotiate Channa’s will, which has given her one son Steven their original family home and has left her husband virtually penniless. All of the injustices endured by the children finally come to the surface. Suddenly the distrust they’ve learned from Channa against strangers backfires and they are fighting against one another. They try to work out a fair 5-way split of the assets, but to no avail. Steven has become selfish and has no desire to help out his siblings or his father. Court battles ensue, family ties are forever broken, and only three of the five children remain on speaking terms.

This well-written story is a sad but compelling tale about the devastation and collapse of a family that you wish could have survived their upbringing if only they had learned to trust and love without suspicion. I recommend it to anyone with an interest in the Holocaust or the complexities of family dynamics.
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Reading Progress

08/10/2010 page 373
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