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My Real Name Is Hanna

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Inspired by real Holocaust events, this poignant debut novel is a powerful coming-of-age story that will resonate with fans of The Book Thief and Between Shades of Gray.

Hanna Slivka is on the cusp of fourteen when Hitler’s army crosses the border into Soviet-occupied Ukraine. Soon, the Gestapo closes in, determined to make the shtetele she lives in “free of Jews.” Until the German occupation, Hanna spent her time exploring Kwasova with her younger siblings, admiring the drawings of the handsome Leon Stadnick, and helping her neighbor dye decorative pysanky eggs. But now she, Leon, and their families are forced to flee and hide in the forest outside their shtetele—and then in the dark caves beneath the rolling meadows, rumored to harbor evil spirits. Underground, they battle sickness and starvation, while the hunt continues above. When Hanna’s father disappears, suddenly it’s up to Hanna to find him—and to find a way to keep the rest of her family, and friends, alive.

Sparse, resonant, and lyrical, weaving in tales of Jewish and Ukrainian folklore, My Real Name Is Hanna celebrates the sustaining bonds of family, the beauty of a helping hand, and the tenacity of the human spirit.

208 pages, Kindle Edition

First published September 15, 2018

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About the author

Tara Lynn Masih

22 books542 followers
My Real Name Is Hanna, Tara's bestselling debut novel for young readers and adults set in WW II Ukraine, was a finalist in the National Jewish Book Awards and received the Julia Ward Howe Award for Young Readers, a Florida Book Award (YA, Gold), a Skipping Stones Honor Award, a Foreword Book of the Year Award (Historical, Gold), and it appeared on Shelf Unbound's 2019 Notable List, Goodreads' 2018 Ultimate Fall YA Reading List, and their Best of the Month Sept. YA list. Hanna also released in Slovakia and in Poland. She is working on a second WWII novel set in the States. Her latest story collection, How We Disappear, was selected for THE MILLIONS "Most Anticipated" Fall List, is a Readers' Favorite, and received a 2022 Florida Book Award (Bronze) for General Fiction.

AITL Media selected Tara for an Inspirational Woman in Literature Award. She is also editor of the acclaimed Rose Metal Press Field Guide to Writing Flash Fiction and The Chalk Circle: Intercultural Prizewinning Essays. She founded The Best Small Fictions series.

Tara received an MA in Writing and Publishing from Emerson College, has been widely anthologized, and her essays have been read on NPR and translated into dance.

Awards for her fiction include first place in The Ledge Magazine’s fiction contest, a finalist fiction grant from the Massachusetts Cultural Council, The Lou P. Bunce Creative Writing Award, multiple Pushcart Prize nominations, and Best New American Voices, Best of the NET, and Best of the Web nominations.

Tara was the assistant editor for STORIES literary magazine, and a regular contributor to The Indian-American and Masala magazines. She lives in the wetlands of St. Augustine, Florida.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 392 reviews
Profile Image for MarilynW.
1,115 reviews2,809 followers
March 11, 2022
My Real Name Is Hanna by Tara Lynn Masih (Author), Suzanne Toren (Narrator)

It's 1942 and Hitler's army crosses the border into Soviet-occupied Ukraine during the time that Hanna Slivka turns fourteen. Life has already been difficult for Hanna and her family, as most of her non Jewish neighbors and townsfolk began pulling away from the danger involved with associating with Jewish people. Until now, her little town has escaped the worst horrors of the approaching German occupation but it's soon obvious that the family must go into hiding or face certain deportation or death.

This is when a group of over a dozen people, including Hanna's immediate family, flee to a forest cabin where they sleep as many hours as possible so that they can do their necessities during the dark hours of the night. Later the family must flee again, with people from a nearby cabin, and their new home is an underground cave where they will live for the next thirteen months. As fortunate as they are to not be captured or dead, as the story takes us through this time in the lives Hanna and her family and friends, the slow starvation, sensory depravation, malnutrition, and sense that they will never live above ground again, is a horrific fate. These are the lucky ones, those still alive, but it's only a matter of time before their dying bodies give up.

The story is told by Hanna, to her daughter, many years later. We see things through the eyes of a teenager, whose family and faith are the most important thing in her life. Hanna also loves her elderly neighbor, Alla, a mentor and best friend, someone who is always thinking about Hanna while Hanna will always remember her. Alla is one of the good people, willing to help the Jews despite the risk of death for doing so.

The story is beautiful because of Hanna's fairy tale way of relating the events. The love of family and these close friends keeps each person going, there are babies and children with them and giving up would mean giving up the hope that these little ones would ever grow up. The audiobook narrator does a wonderful job of giving Hanna her voice.

Published September 15, 2018
Profile Image for Angela M .
1,286 reviews2,204 followers
July 24, 2018
“Abram Slivka (my Papa)
Eva Slivka (my Mama)
Hanna Slivka (14 years old, loves to read)
Leeba Slivka (12 years old, loves to sew)
Symon Slivka (10 years old, a really good bit who
Loves his dog) Ovid (our dog)
Steed (our horse)
We all lived in this house until October 12, 1942. If you
find this ,
say these names out loud, please, and bury this paper
in the yard.”

Maybe a request for some semblance of a proper burial. Perhaps a plea for remembrance. These are the words that Hanna buries in a tin in the Slivka family’s yard before they are forced to flee their home, their quiet, happy existence, as the Nazis move in to make the town free of Jews. This becomes a journey for survival from their life in the shtetele, this small town, their Polish and Jewish roots, in the Ukraine, to the deep of the forest and eventually to the darkness of a cave finding refuge from the darkest hearts of the Nazis. We don’t see much of the horrific things that happened to the Jews as they are rounded up and sent to camps, but we know of course , and the characters find out as the novel moves forward. They learn that railway cars take away Jews and then the Nazis don’t take them away anymore. They just shoot them as they try to escape through the forest. We do see first hand the hunger and hardship that the Slivka family, their extended family and neighbors endure. There was no food at times. They were starving until one of the men or older boys could safely leave to scrounge what they could.

This is a beautifully written, well researched story inspired by a real family who together survived the holocaust by hiding in a cave for well over a year. This is a story of courage, of love, of family, of culture , of religious beliefs, of how it is possible to sustain hope in the face of hunger and darkness and loss. Through the beloved character of Mrs . Petrovich, one of my favorites, the kind Christian neighbor, we are reminded of the goodness of people, so many of whom aided Jews through these horrifying times. Through the characters of the Cohan brothers, we are reminded of the courage of so many who risked their lives to save the people in their community. I was struck that this was about the importance of story telling, both real and wonderfully imagined on a number of levels. When the novel begins, it is Hanna telling her story of survival to her daughter. Hanna’s beloved friend, Mrs. Petrovich, tells her stories through the beautiful eggs she decorates. The spirits of the children as well as the adults were sustained in the dark cave by the voices the children as they say “ tell me a story”. There are stories told in the cave remembering loved ones, some biblical, and some are fables of a sort - all beautifully told. Then of course there is this beautiful story told by Tara Lynn Masih encompassing all of this, itself based on a true one. While this may be geared to a YA audience, it is far from an ordinary coming of age story. I believe it’s an extraordinary story that everyone should read because it’s an imperative reminder that we can’t forget that the Holocaust happened and we can’t let it happen again.

I received an advanced copy of this book from Mandel Vilar Press through NetGalley.
Profile Image for BernLuvsBooks .
773 reviews4,644 followers
December 2, 2018
5 Stars for this poignant, beautifully written debut YA novel inspired by real Holocaust events

One of the most touching aspects of this book for me was the strength, determination, loyalty and love each of the characters showed during such a bleak and desperate time. It isn’t easy to sustain positivity during such a horrifying time. Yet, family, friendship, hope, culture, devotion and religious beliefs paid a pivotal role in sustaining the Jewish people through the darkest of times when all else was lost.
In My Real Name is Hanna , Hanna Slivka is a young teen forced to leave her home and life as she knows it behind when the Germans cross the border into the Ukraine intent on making the land "Jew free". Along with members of her family and others from her village, she is forced into hiding in underground caves. There they live in the damp and cold darkness with meager amounts of food and little to no real comforts for over a year.

For a book focused on a time filled with such bleakness, cruelty and despair the story was beautiful, almost lyrical in its descriptions and emphasized compassion. It focused on the people that put their lives at risk to help others. The strong familial bonds and unyielding friendships depicted were a stark contrast to the prejudice, violence and hate of the time.

This is a powerful story that should be read and experienced by all.
Profile Image for Jennifer ~ TarHeelReader.
2,130 reviews30.3k followers
September 1, 2018
🌟 🌟 🌟 🌟 🌟

5 beautiful and transfixing stars to My Real Name is Hanna!

Some of the most meaningful, poignant books I have read have been about the Holocaust, and My Real Name is Hanna will be placed on that same shelf.

“I will say my real name to you for the first time. Hanna Slivka. Don’t be scared. I am still your mother. Born on February twenty-second, in the winter of 1928. Your grandmother often told me to remember this date because that is the day that God allowed me into this world to breathe my first soul breath of chilled Ukrainian air.”

Hanna Slivka is a teen living in Soviet-occupied Ukraine when Hitler’s army crosses the border. She and her family are Jewish, and the Gestapo wants the town, Kwasova, to be “free of Jews.” The book begins, however, with a beautiful setting up of the scenery and daily life of this family living in a peaceful Ukraine. I was not familiar with the culture of Ukraine, especially during this time period, so I soaked in all of the stunningly descriptive prose.

Once the army arrives, Hanna’s father is favored because he can fix things that no one else can, but eventually, their luck runs out, and they are forced to pack what they can and flee into the forest with other families. They later move to live in the caves for more security and less exposure. This is where they stayed for over a year’s time, but not without some of the good helpers in the world contributing.

Based on true events, and with less than 5% of Ukrainian Jews surviving the Holocaust, this type of story begs to be told because there are so few around to tell it. Tara Lynn Masih’s lyrical writing illustrates the strength and sheer will of Hanna and her family to survive. Overall, My Real Name is Hanna is a strong, emotionally-resonant story of friendship, family, and true compassion in the most dire of times.

Many thanks to the author for the finished copy to review. All opinions are my own.

My reviews can also be found on my blog: www.jennifertarheelreader.com
Profile Image for jv poore.
612 reviews204 followers
January 28, 2023
Friends---I'm taking MY REAL NAME IS HANNA by Tara Lynn Masih to a brand new group of students and I cannot wait! Sharing, as I knew you'd be excited, too.

Hanna’s daughter has found her dog-eared, marked-up copy of Joan of Arc. And, the girl has always admired the pysanky, lovingly displayed under glass. It is time to tell the story behind these truly treasured objects.

Hanna was a young girl in Ukraine, in the 1940s, when she considered herself to be Mrs. Petrovich’s assistant. Watching the competent, perpetually dyed hands create intricate designs on the fragile egg shells and listening to tales of her people who were once sun-worshippers, was one of Hanna’s favorite pastimes.

Her Jewish family was more reserved about the relationship. Parents were very specific about what Hanna could, and could not, do in the egg-coloring process. If the neighbor had not served as the family’s Shabbes goy, the partnership would not be permitted. As is, Mrs. Petrovich refuses payment for her duties such as lighting matches and locking the door on the Sabbat. Allowing Hanna to help her is fairest thing for the family to do.

For the first decade or so, Hanna lived a blessed life. Her Jewish family was a part of the community. That couldn’t be said everywhere. But things changed. Under Comrade Stalin, Hanna was disheartened to learn that Passover traditions would have to be hidden. The blow was somewhat softened by the knowledge that Catholics were forced to gift pysanky in secret as well.

As Hitler’s German troops began to conquer larger areas and draw closer, rules and revisions become more targeted. The butcher can no longer sell kosher meat. Ration cards are glaringly disproportionate, with Jewish families receiving ridiculously small portions.

Hanna’s family realizes that, if they are to survive the German invasion, they must literally run for their lives. With meager few possessions, extended family and some neighbors, they were able to remain undetected in a couple of abandoned shacks, deep in the woods.

The Germans learned that there were many Jewish people hiding in the forests, forcing the small group to take to the caves. With the only exceptions of men leaving, as needed, for provisions, life was spent entirely underground until, at long last, word reached them that Germany had finally been beaten. For the few remaining Jews, they may be free to show their faces and embrace their beliefs, but their lives were irrevocably damaged.

My Real Name is Hanna is a Historical Fiction account meant to mesmerize Young Adult readers. Ms. Masih more than succeeds by allowing Hanna’s calm, matter-of-fact, yet not unfeeling, voice tell the terribly true story of an inarguably horrific period.

The family featured in the book is fictious, but real survivor Esther Stermer’s family, along with four others, actually survived the invasion of the Wehrmacht by living in two underground caves. The women and children were underground for more than 500 days. I’m so stoked that their survival story is finally being shared. I cannot wait to introduce this humbly heroic historical tale to “my” students.

This review was written by jv poore for Buried Under Books, with huge thanks for the Advance Review Copy to donate to my favorite classroom library.
Profile Image for Debra .
2,298 reviews35k followers
July 24, 2018
**This book was inspired by real Holocaust events

"I have lost everything that can ever be lost. I have given everything that can ever be given." - my family's MA - Holocaust Survivor

Hanna Slivka is almost fourteen years old when her entire world is turned upside down. Hitler's army has crossed into the Soviet occupied Ukraine. They are intent on making the land "free of Jews." Hanna's life goes from exploring with her siblings and helping her neighbor decorate psyanky eggs, to having rocks thrown at her on her walk home from school, to hiding in the walls of her home when the army comes, to eventually leaving everything behind to seek safety in the forest and eventually in an underground cave with several other families.

The caves, although they provide protection, do not let in any sunlight, fresh air and keeps them in perpetual darkness both literally and figuratively. They do not know what is going on in the outside world, until their members must leave to find food and hopefully trade with nearby farmers.

This book is a well written account of what it was like to live/survive during the Holocaust. Where neighbors either helped neighbors or turned on them. Where hatred and racism tore away people's morals and values. A time when fear and hatred ruled the day. But in the darkness of the caves, humanity existed. People helped people, lives were lived, hope remained, and the true meaning of what makes a home is learned.

This is a timely book as there are so very few Holocaust survivors left in the world. My Ma passed away in 2017. Books such as this one keeps their stories and memories alive. No one truly knows what he/she is capable of until they are placed to the test. Readers may ask "could I survive this?" I hope none of us ever have to find out.

As I mentioned this book is well written and contains beautiful descriptions of nature. I enjoyed Hanna's relationship with her next-door neighbor and both of their openness and interest in each other's lives. This book showed the strength of family bonds but also showed the strength of friendship and how small acts of kindness can not only make someone's day but can also save a life. This is a wonderful book about courage, survival, and family for readers of all ages but is geared for the YA population.

A 2018 Skipping Stones Honor Award Book

Thank you to Mandel Vilar Press and NetGalley who provided me with a copy of the book in exchange for an honest review. All of the thoughts and opinions expressed in this review are my own.

Read more of my reviews at www.openbookpost.com
Profile Image for Fergus, Quondam Happy Face.
973 reviews17.6k followers
March 23, 2023
My Real Name is Hanna voices the same single contentious issue that many other similar WWII books concern themselves with, but it stands alone as a masterpiece.

A masterpiece of the heart.

And it NEEDS to be read by ANY generation after those of the fifties and sixties. For these younger folk would profit most by it.

You see, my own postwar generation straddled two separate and almost irreconcilable epochs: the Traditionalist and the Postmodernist.

And you younger kids, whether you know it or not, have grown up as postmodernists...

What you believe is probably no longer rooted in the older traditions, because your education and upbringing was in effect an improvisation on the theme of a new kind of rootlessness.

You started with a clean slate.

Many of you may not even understand how the old traditions hang together in a personally relevant way, or how values aren’t just a neutral given, open to interpretation.

You see, the very MEANING of tradition has been lost.

But if you’re interested about what tradition MADE people into in the past, and how ordinary life through tradition became a thing of precious wonder - READ THIS BOOK.

It won’t take long.

But it’ll GRAB your HEART. And show you how sacramental ordinary life can be. A thing of WONDER.

And NEVER to be taken lightly.

This review about Tara Masih’s wonderfully suspenseful - and wonderfully, touchingly human - portrayal of one closely-knit family’s hard flight and concealment from Nazi persecution... nearly didn’t get written.

But the book itself, though, superbly-written in every respect, cries out to be ably reviewed, once read.

As the famous words at the gates of Jerusalem go “the very stones (on the pathway to that City of Gold) cry out” for it!

But I couldn’t.

And now you - and Tara (for she has NO idea why) - will ALL know why I couldn’t.

It all started in my uni sophomore year. I was under intense personal pressure to resolve my feelings over the designs of a close personal friend on me that summer.

But I had to put an immediate lid on my rage. For I suddenly saw myself standing at my generation’s Great Divide. The uneasy transition between Traditional Absolutes and Postmodern Chaos. My friend, you see, had chosen Postmodernism and was consequentially a bit of a risk-taker suddenly.

So many of us boomers lost it over this duality. One writer said it all: we were all Growing Up Absurd.

Ever read Freud’s first book - on Hysteria? Me neither! But I know the drift, cause that happened to me then. I lost it.


But THEN - a well-meaning prof MANDATED that I finish an essay to complete my year - you got it: a long BOOK REVIEW, like this.


It was the Straw that Broke this Camel’s Back.

And any of you who’ve read my stuff know the rest of my story, for it’s my Touchstone whenever I now have to DO something.

As for years, it was my Shadow. It was the Sword of Damocles, poised perpetually to strike. I went from being a sufferer from Asperger’s to becoming a Pariah in my own eyes.

For you see, also, when I finished this book in the Winter of 2018, my Dad’s critical health situation was deteriorating. So That was the root cause of my failure this time.

And, again, the Final Catalyst was - yes - a book review, for Tara.

And That’s my story.

So us Boomers will take to this heartfelt book like a fish to water, because it’s got a traditional heart - just like our early years, and just like the way a good half of us continued.

But then there are the postmodernists, then and now...

To all the Me Generation, the Gen-X’s and Millennials: this Book will INSTRUCT YOU ALL IN THE DEEP WAYS OF HEART that you never learned in school.

Read it - don’t Knock it!

And, in case you’re wondering how my own crisis resolved itself: this year, my Dad’s health, though still terminal, has shown a remarkable comeback.

I am blessed.

DOUBLY blessed, in fact!

Because at the time I read the Joyful last pages of your book, Tara, a simple book that will remain ever dear to my heart - and the long Nazi Winter was morphing into the Allied Spring of Liberation - spring weather was appearing here.

And it was then we knew, also, that Dad would quite possibly live to see his 95th birthday.

And you know what?

Another three years has gone by, and STILL he’s well -

And today...

I ordered his 98th Birthday Gift!

So all’s well.

Thanks for your FANTASTIC novel, Tara.

This review is YOUR belated but heartfelt Gift from me, for a story that grabbed my heart and shook it -

And then gave it lasting Peace.
Profile Image for Diane S ☔.
4,739 reviews14.1k followers
September 11, 2018
STRUGGLE AND SURVIVAL in the Ukraine. Due to shifting borders, Hanna and her family, have been considered, Poles, Austrisns and Ukrainians. Changing tides once again threaten as the Germans are heading their way. As a Jewish family they are close, and close to many of their non Jewish neighbors. It is time though for them to go into hiding, as their village is to become Jewish free, as news reaches them of what is happening to the Jews who are taken.

Meant for. YA audience, the violence is there but tampered down a bit, not all horrors written. Enjoyed the format of this, as a grown woman and mother, Hanna tells her story of the time, the years, her family and others had to hide. Based on an actual family and their experiences makes this even more poignant. The author did a wonderful job staying true to the thoughts and feelings of a fourteen years old girl. I loved the characters Alla, a non Jewish woman who comes to their aid in many ways, as do a few other at great risk to themselves. Of course more turned away or reported than tried to help. The closeness and love, faith shown by this family was beautiful admidst horrific times.

The authors note makes clear how well researched this book was, and explained more of the historic events in this region. It also tells what is fact, what it was based on, and what was fiction. All very well done. A good book for young adults to read as an important introduction to the Holocaust.

ARC from Netgalley.
Profile Image for Sujoya (theoverbookedbibliophile).
435 reviews981 followers
July 13, 2022
"My Real Name is Hanna" begins in the present day from the perspective of adult Hanna Slivka (who now goes by Marcelina Rosenberg) as she shares her story with her daughter. She details the experiences she and her family went through between 1941-1945 as they struggled to survive the Holocaust in their hometown of Kwasova in Ukraine during WWII – events that led to her family finally leaving behind their home, their country and even their real names.

The story begins with a brief picture of the changing political landscape as the Nazi occupy Ukraine and the growing intolerance and discriminatory practices against the Jewish population that follows. Fourteen-year-old Hanna’s life changes as she can no longer move about freely, is unable to attend school and her family struggles to make ends meet with the meager rations allotted to them. While most of their acquaintances turn away from them, they do find kindness in a few who are willing to help them including their neighbor, Mrs. Petrovich, with whom Hanna shares a beautiful friendship. As the Germans call for "Judenfrei”, a Jew-free Ukraine, the Slivka family is forced to flee their home and take shelter in a cabin in the forest to avoid being hunted, deported, or killed. When they sense they are no longer safe there, the Slivka family, along with others, make their way to the gypsum caves near the valley further away from their shtetele where they spend over one year in hiding. What follows is a harrowing account of a family forced to fight illness, starvation and the constant threat of discovery and their struggle to stay alive and keep one another safe.

“Abram Slivka (my Papa)
Eva Slivka (my Mama)
Hanna Slivka (14 years old, loves to read)
Leeba Slivka (12 years old, loves to sew)
Symon Slivka (10 years old, a really good boy
who loves his dog)
Ovid (our dog)
Steed (our horse)
We all lived in this house until October 12, 1942. If
you find this,
say these names out loud, please, and bury this paper
in the yard.”

Just as other works that revolve around the Holocaust, this is not an easy read. I did like how the author weaves bits of Ukrainian and Jewish traditions, culture and folklore throughout the narrative. The author’s note at the end of the book states that though this book is a work of fiction, the story was inspired by the true account of the Stermer family (reference Esther Stermer’s memoir "We Fight to Survive") who spent over 500 days in gypsum caves to avoid capture by the Germans. She also mentions that only 5 % of Jews in all of Ukraine survived the Holocaust.

Tara Lynn Masih’s “My Real Name is Hanna” is a story about courage, resilience and survival. This is an important, well-written and well-researched story - the kind that should be read and shared and never forgotten. Though the target audience is YA and thus the tone is somewhat subdued, I feel that this would appeal to adults who are interested in historical fiction set in the WWII era.
Profile Image for Debbie W..
726 reviews493 followers
August 31, 2020
I was moved to read this book based on a Goodreads friend's review (Thanks, Annette)!

I can't believe this is a debut novel! A unique historical fiction story inspired by real people and events, one would have to have a heart of stone to not sympathize with these people in their struggle to survive. Taking place in Galicia, Ukraine (some of my grandparents emigrated from there to Canada), Hanna and her Jewish family live in the village of Kwasova, until Nazi occupation forced them to leave their homes to live in the forest and eventually in caves for several months before the Red Army "liberates" Ukraine. Some non-Jewish characters in this village play an integral part in their survival.

I was impressed with Masih's impeccable research (a reference to the University of Alberta was a nice surprise). A nod to Ukrainian culture such as delicious pampushky and varenyky, poet Taras Shevchenko, and most importantly, the relevance of pysanky (decorated Ukrainian Easter eggs) really warmed my heart. Memories came flooding back of helping my mom make pillows and quilts with goose down, just like Hanna did with her mother.

A very heartwarming story that I highly recommend!
Profile Image for Felicia.
254 reviews931 followers
September 9, 2018
"It's ok to cry, Hanna...crying is a form of breathing."

*ugly sobbing* 😩

Narrated in the voice of 14 year old Hanna, My Real Name is Hanna is the true story of a Jewish family on their quest for survival in the Ukraine during the Holocaust. The family eventually takes refuge in underground caves leaving them to try to make some semblance of a life while being cast in complete and total darkness.

"What is it like to take your last breath? What if the sound of it gave you away?"

*more ugly sobbing* 😩😩

This is a powerful story about family, hope and ultimately the goodness of mankind.


I was provided an ARC of this book by NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Karen.
574 reviews1,121 followers
September 12, 2018
This is the story of a young girl named Hanna Slivka, and her family who are Jewish and live first in Poland, then in the Ukraine during the years of the Holocaust.
A story of love, family, and survival.
This family had to go to extremes to try and stay safe... always on alert, having to leave their home..first to the forests...then to the caves, and sticking together to survive. There were a few kind people along the way that were a help to them.. but surviving was immensely difficult!

I did like that this showed the population left in the towns and how they coped... versus another concentration camp story.
Regardless, all the stories are so important and this one is based on the life of a real person.

Thank you to Netgalley and Mandal Vilar Press for the free digital ebook!
Profile Image for Carol.
1,370 reviews2,138 followers
July 17, 2018
"I am no longer afraid to walk in the dark."

In MY REAL NAME IS HANNA, a bright, courageous and clever young (soon to be) 14 year old narrates the story of her loving Jewish family as they navigate through the dangerous and deadly times of the holocaust. The Slivka's are good, caring people who don't harm anyone....just want to live in peace....but that is not to be.

As rumors of a Nazi invasion to a remote Ukraine strengthen, escape is the only answer to stay together....stay alive....or die on their own terms. Uprooted from their beloved home, papa Abram and mama Eva leave family and friends behind, gather together their three children and head off to a small cabin deep in the woods....until they must move on again....until intense fear take them into complete darkness. Oh. My. Gosh.

While times are dark and struggles unending, there is love, hope and many kindnesses exchanged within the gripping pages of this relatively short novel. Special friends, meaningful tales, and oh that secret message tree make for an extraordinary and timely story for both young and old alike.

MY REAL NAME IS HANNA is a work of fiction inspired by some true life experiences of a horrific past not to be forgotten, and yet another reminder of how prejudice can lead to a hate filled society of violence and death.

Many thanks to author Tara Lynn Masih, and Mandel Vilar Press via NetGalley for the arc COMING SEPTEMBER 11, 2018 in exchange for review.

Profile Image for Cheri.
1,744 reviews2,273 followers
July 29, 2018
“Dance me to the children who are asking to be born
Dance me through the curtains that our kisses have outworn
Raise a tent of shelter now, though every thread is torn
Dance me to the end of love”

--Dance Me to the End of Love, Leonard Cohen, Songwriters: Leonard Cohen

”I will say my real name to you for the first time. Hanna Slivka. Don’t be scared. I am still your mother. Born on February twenty-second, in the winter of 1928. Your grandmother often told me to remember this date because that is the day that God allowed me into this world to breathe my first soul breath of chilled Ukrainian air. “

”She told me all this as we sat in fear for our lives in the dark. That our people believe the breath of life—neshamah—is holy. That she could see snow falling outside the window, great big flakes like goose feathers. And a bantam cock crowed, she said, as if to welcome me.”

”My family told stories. We swallowed them in place of food and water. Stories kept us alive in our underground sanctuary. The world continued to carry out its crimes above us, while we fought just to remain whole below.”

Sharing this story with her daughter, now, from when this begins in May of 1941, she shares this story with us, as readers, her personal petition that this story, their family story, be held in her daughter’s memories.

Life in Kwasova in the days before the war was simple and good, with their life filled with the daily rituals, the small tasks throughout the day, and prayer. But life changes as often as their country’s borders change, and historically they have been Ukrainian, Polish or Austrian citizens. On the day that Hitler invades, the 1st of September 1939, they are Polish, and the border is now down the middle of Poland. As the Nazis take over, hostility toward Jews increases, the number of people they can trust decreases, and by 1942, life is unsustainable there, and they make plans to leave, but it takes time to gather that which they hope to keep, and what they, reluctantly, must leave behind.

They leave their home on October 12th of 1942, with Hanna leaving a note that includes all of their names, including their dog and horse, and the ages of the children, asking the person who finds this list to please say these names out loud, and then bury the paper in the yard.

Once they leave, their journey is fraught with problems that start out small and few between, but as time goes by, and food is scarce or impossible to find. Shelter that they once had they are forced to leave until they seek shelter in a cave. Knowing the alternatives, there are few complaints at first, but as time goes by, the effects of living like this begin to take a toll.

While the Nazi Camps are mentioned, the focus of this story is on this one extended family and their fight for survival in a story that is incredibly compelling, but without the descriptions of the horrors we have all come to know of by reading about the Holocaust.

This is categorized as a Teens & Young-Adult novel, but can be appreciated by all ages.

It is also worth noting that this story was inspired by Esther Stermer’s ”No Place on Earth”, a documentary, based on the true story Ms. Stermer’s book ”We Fight to Survive.” A quote by her follows a dedication at the start of this book:

”Long ago, people believed that spirits and ghosts lived in the ruins and caves. Now we could see that there were none here. The devils and evil spirits were on the outside, not in the grotto.” -- Esther Stermer, author of”We Fight to Survive.”

Pub Date: 25 Sep 2018

Many thanks for the ARC provided by Mandel Vilar Press
Profile Image for Linda.
1,231 reviews1,280 followers
February 22, 2019
The horrors that visit upon us.......and yet a flicker of life survives to tell.

Tara Lynn Masih touches words like paint to canvas in My Real Name Is Hanna. This novel reflects true happenings in a small town in Ukraine during Hitler's march after his occupation of Poland in 1939. Hanna speaks softly with the image of her daughter in mind as she reflects on those heart-heavy events forever embedded in her mind.

"My family told stories. We swallowed them in place of food and water. Stories kept us alive in our underground sanctuary."

Born in Kwasova in 1928, Hanna views her world caught up in a whirlwind of changing identities. Ukraine becomes occupied by the Polish and then by the Russians. Snippets of differing languages and cultures spread into a survival mode of the moment. Hanna's mother, Eva, sends her into the market square where escalating limitations on Jews was a daily occurrence. Eva hopes that Hannah's blonde hair will bring a few more meager supplies. Ration cards state otherwise.

We feel the tension mounting as curtains are drawn tightly and eyes observe the movements of neighbors. The Ukrainian Catholic Church baptizes Jews with new birth certificates while the police collaborate with the Nazis. Underground bunkers are created with Jews sleeping in their clothes. Fear and uncertainty are breathed in like air.

Although this novel has been labeled as Young Adult, I believe that it finds a universal audience on all levels. Masih's research is impeccable in its fact finding. But it is within the beautiful strands of her prose that the story takes root. She brings the coarseness, and yet the finery, within these families who will experience unspeakable abominations. And all these things are told through the voice of a fourteen year old still pivoting on the precipice of childhood and questioning each day if it holds a future. The country itself, Ukraine, means "borderland".......the fine line of survival for some and the fine line of existing no longer.

Beautifully written and hauntingly memorable. You'll certainly not forget this experience.
Profile Image for Christine.
590 reviews1,141 followers
March 19, 2019
4.5 stars rounded to 5 stars

What an enthralling story! My Real Name is Hanna is an extraordinary debut novel based on the lives of an extended Jewish family that spent a year and a half hiding from the Germans in the Ukraine during World War II.

This story is told from the POV of Hanna, a teenage girl from a family of five. They, along with around another dozen other persons (extended family and friends) spend a hellacious 18 months just trying to survive in the deep forest and then a miles-long cave system in the Ukraine as the Germans went all out to kill every Jew in the area while Russia tried to regain control of the region.

Though there are a lot of chilling moments in this novel, there is also celebration of the human spirit in the fight to stay alive with faith, hope, family, and the sheer will to do whatever it takes. It’s really difficult to fully comprehend what people actually went through during these insane world wars. They lived off “soup” made from residual animal fat leeched from a pair of leather boots, fried centipedes, and leaves. They wore the same clothes for months on end. They did not see the light of day for a year. I can’t even imagine surviving all that, not to mention the constant threat of sudden death.

The best and the worst of all those fighting to survive certainly become apparent in this tale. This is a raw, emotional, beautiful story that shows us how strong, courageous, and compassionate humans can be when placed in dire situations. A special nod goes to one of my three favorite characters, Alla Petrovich, at this point. Of course the other side of the coin is clearly apparent as well. We see neighbor turning against neighbor, ruthless mass killings because of religious beliefs, people committing suicide before they let anyone else kill them.

To the author’s credit, despite the content, the book is a very readable and captivating page-turner. I could barely tear myself away from reading it and finished it in little more than a day. I also want to mention the incredible research that went into this novel. Please make sure you read the section entitled “A Historical Note” at the end of the story.

I again learned something new about the Holocaust from a historical fiction novel. This time it was the story of the people who fled to the deep forest areas and to the caves to try to escape certain death.

My Real Name is Hanna is richly told with simple language and represents to me a poignant celebration of the will to survive. I highly recommend it to all historical fiction readers. It’s a high quality read.

Thank you to Rochester Public Library and the Libby app for lending me a copy of this book.
September 27, 2018
3.5 stars

A haunting and devastating Holocaust story of one Jewish family’s struggle to survive. Hanna is thirteen years old and living in Soviet-occupied Ukraine when the Gestapo arrive in her small town to ‘eliminate all Jews’. She and her family, along with a neighbouring Jewish family, flee to the forest to hide out and avoid capture. From there, they must flee further, taking them into underground caves where they must battle starvation, isolation, complete darkness, constant dampness and disease. Her family’s strength and determination to remain together and survive was very touching and inspiring. What they endured, living in their extreme conditions and always in fear of being found, is unimaginable.

The story is told from Hanna’s perspective which I really enjoyed. The author, Tara Lynn Masih, did a wonderful job putting the reader into Hanna’s mindset, creating a vivid and loveable teenage girl. Hanna’s family was a beautiful cast of characters who worked their way into my heart. Though I have read many Holocaust stories, I have not read anything about Jews hiding in underground caves which I found very interesting and unforgettable.

This was a Traveling Sister read. To find this review, along with the other Traveling Sister reviews, please visit our blog at:


Thank you to NetGalley, Mandel Vilar Press and Tara Lynn Masih for providing me with an ARC in exchange for an honest review!
Profile Image for Tara.
Author 22 books542 followers
December 23, 2019
Winner of THE JULIA WARD HOWE AWARD FOR YOUNG READERS, a FLORIDA BOOK AWARD, a FOREWORD BOOK OF THE YEAR AWARD, a SKIPPING STONES HONOR AWARD, this is my first novel for young readers and adults, inspired by real events. Five years of research and writing went into My Real Name Is Hanna, inspired by a family who sought refuge in the gypsum caves of Ukraine during the Holocaust. The book, with its gorgeous cover and interior, is due out early Sept. 2018! (Update: translated to Slovak in 2019, my first foreign translation!)

“Hanna’s story . . . uncovers an astonishing, rich vein of hope in a world gone utterly dark. The anguish and love painted here are both timeless and timely.”
–Elizabeth Wein, New York Times bestselling author of Code Name Verity

“Tara Lynn Masih’s lovely, lyrical novel made me feel like I was reading a part of my parents’ story that I'd neglected to write . . . a worthy addition to the canon of Holocaust literature for young readers. As fine, delicate, and artful as a painted pysanka egg.”
–Helen Maryles Shankman, author of They Were Like Family to Me, 2016 Story Prize finalist

“It’s said the Holocaust defies imagination. Tara Lynn Masih defies that notion. My Real Name Is Hanna is a powerful, revelatory leap of imagination, taking readers on a journey with 14-year-old Hanna from the slowly enveloping horror of the Holocaust, to the literal and spiritual depths of being buried alive . . . An unforgettable odyssey.”
̶ Greg Dawson, author of Hiding in the Spotlight: A Musical Prodigy’s Story of Survival

“A gripping story of courage and endurance in the face of Nazi terror . . . My Real Name Is Hanna is a book that lives with you long after you have turned the final page.”
–Diney Costeloe, best-selling author of The Girl with No Name
Profile Image for Kat.
Author 8 books353 followers
March 9, 2023
One of the first sentences that grabbed me in this one was the one that talked about geography and where exactly Hana’s story is set. If you’re from a large or fairly isolated country, it may be easy to overlook how fluid boundaries and borders are historically. And when Hana remarks that the place she lives has been called Austria, Poland, and the date the story starts is part of Ukraine, it really hits home. And also sets the stage for the cultural cruelty described—the Russian government trying to stamp out traces of Polish language and culture, Stalin being anti-religion, the widespread discrimination against Jews, etc.

I loved the descriptions in this, of the war gradually worsening, of Hana’s world growing smaller and more bleak, of the measures they had to take to hide and survive. This tale is a bit different from some of the other WW2 stories you often read, and I found the setting interesting.

Profile Image for Annette.
766 reviews343 followers
August 3, 2020
It is heart-wrenching to see how one human being is capable of mistreating another human being. The wronged ones in order to survive need to keep their spirit alive. In this story, each person is allowed to keep one thing they value the most, and leave the rest behind. The spirit also comes through the story-telling, traditions, love for family and staying together.

Ukraine, 1941. Hanna lives with her family in a Jewish community in a small town of Kwasova. She doesn’t understand why some people from her village are disappearing as her parents try to protect her from knowing the evil. They don’t tell her about the enormous taxes being levied on Jews. “Or of the consequences of practicing” their religion.

When the actions get dramatic, removing Jews from their homes at nights, some get killed, the rest are taken to the camps. Hanna’s family is being warned, “Everyone is hungry now and a hungry man will do anything not to see his family starve.” Home is where family is. The forest becomes their new home.

Told from POV of fourteen-year-old Hanna, at the time she doesn’t understand “that some of those cattle cars are filled with many Polish prisoners heading to Siberian gulags.”

Interestingly portrayed place gives a good sense of community they live in. Filled with many dimensions including traditional food and customs. I value the richness of culture this story offers. Also, enjoyed the geographical description. “The name “Ukraine” means “borderland,” and our country’s borders keep changing.” And with that the parents help their children “understand each new law, even those that try to erase our Jewish heritage.”

Historical background is vividly presented, including details that give a good sense of the evil that is happening and of hardship. For example, how hard it was to get basic ingredients or food such as bread only because you were Jewish. The hunger they experience is intense.

Hanna helps her Christian neighbor in decorating eggs for Easter. In the process we learn the beautiful tradition of pysanky and who makes them – descendants of the Hutsuls in the Carpathian Mountains. Decorated eggs were being given away as talismans by Christians at Easter. This also brings a courageous character. A neighbor risking her life to help another human being.

The fear of being discovered when you’re hiding is very real. You eagerly want to find out if they survived this and many other ordeals.

Any war story is a sad story. This story vividly brings the struggle to stay alive. And with the touchingly beautiful storytelling, it makes us care deeply for those who fight to survive the evil.

This book, exquisitely written, is very valuable not only for YA, but readers of all ages.
Profile Image for Darla.
3,359 reviews529 followers
May 12, 2022
What I really liked about this story: 1) The Slivka family survived in the forest and underground for years. Reading about the innovative ways they were able to stay alive and together is inspiring. 2) Pysanky -- the ancient art of decorating eggs is central to the plot. When in Latvia for Easter this spring we decorated eggs with bits of nature and used organic substances like red onion peels to dye them. 3) The ways the family practiced their faith in the midst of adversity. 4) The "Gentiles" who helped them and those in their group. You will be inspired by Hanna!

In the past year or two, I have read several books about people fleeing the Nazi roundups. Here are three: Alias Anna: A True Story of Outwitting the Nazis,Trapped in Hitler's Web, and The Forest of Vanishing Stars.
Profile Image for Carolyn.
2,180 reviews617 followers
September 15, 2018
At the end of this book, set in the region of Galicia in the western Ukraine,the author tells us that less than 2% of the Jews who lived there survived WW2. That is a truly heartbreaking statistic and makes this novel based on a true story of survival even more poignant.

In 1942 Hanna Slivka is nearly 14, living in a small Ukrainian village where Jews and Christians live side by side in peace and harmony, when the Germans arrive to start the process of making the area judenfrei. Initially her family is helped by friends and neighbours, but eventually most of the town people turn against them as the German propaganda machine swings into action and it becomes too dangerous to be seen helping Jews. Forced to flee deep into the forest with some other families to a small hut they eke out an existence until that too becomes too dangerous and they retreat to an underground cave system. Their days and nights are spent in darkness, food becomes even harder to find and survival becomes a question of whether they will succumb to starvation and malnutrition before the Russian army arrives to force out the Germans.

We know that Hanna survives, as she is the narrator telling her story to her daughter. The story is more about how this spirited, courageous child survived three years of living in fear and deprivation and what it is like to be hunted by merciless men. This is also a story of family bonds and courage, of passing down stories and religion to the next generation. Despite the darkness of the story, it never feels too oppressive as the author describes the beauty of the forest, the joy in finding food or receiving small acts of kindness from friends still prepared to help them. Hanna's one book on Joan of Arc helps to give her courage and the only paper on which to write and record their days in hiding. The children, lacking toys show their natural inventiveness and resilience by finding new games to play or playthings to make out of the nature to be found around them.

While there are many books written about the horrors of the Holocaust and those who survived, this is an inspirational, timely story at a time when there is still much hate and persecution in our world based on colour, ethnicity or religion. Recommended for both adults as well as young adults. 4.5★

With thanks to Netgalley and the publisher Mandel Vilar Press for a digital copy of the book
Profile Image for Katie.
269 reviews334 followers
October 18, 2018
A problem I often have with Holocaust fiction is a tendency on the author's part to depict all Jews as saints. It's an understandable stance given what horrors they had to go through but it often doesn't make for compelling or sometimes even credible nuanced adult fiction (I'm thinking of The Invisible Bridge and We Were the Lucky Ones). We're asked to sympathise with a cast of idealised characters who perhaps belong more to a fairy story than a novel. An easy way around this problem perhaps is to acknowledge the parameters and prerequisites of fairy story (or YA novel as the fairy story has broadly become). This Tara Masih accomplishes really well. We've got an idealised mother, father, brother and sister but because the author has admirable consistent control of her register they don't grate. She's diligently aware of the fairy story element and without ever forcing it allows it to permeate throughout. Thus all the dialogue, all the emotions, all the characters are crafted to a child's understanding. And she deploys really well magical emblems, another important facet of the fairy story. Here we have a witness tree, the painted egg and the motanky dolls. The forest in the novel is a fairy story forest, magically described, and the evil is largely invisible, an ominous haunting presence just beyond the horizon.

I also enjoyed the honest and moving afterword the author writes.

I didn't quite love this as much as most of my friends here (I think I'll always favour Holocaust memoirs over Holocaust novels) but I found it much more accomplished and moving than other novels I've read on the subject.
September 26, 2018
The story begins with us meeting Hannah as she tells her granddaughter “I will say my real name to you for the very first time” and from that very first sentence I was intrigued to learn Hanna’s story. She tell us the story of how her family came to their underground sanctuary, how they stayed alive, how their spirits were tested while the world above carried out their crimes.

My Real Name Hanna focuses on an Ukrainian Jewish family and their story of survival and sacrifice and is inspired by actual events.   I have read so many stories of survival in camps and have often wonder about the people who hide and their stories of their survival.  Hanna and her family consumed my thoughts and my heart while I read their story.

We are taken back to the past where we meet young Hanna a strong and inspiring character who makes this book an excellent choice for a YA read.  I was moved by the bravery of Hanna and her family and heartbroken with the things they had to experience while hiding in the forest and then eventually being pushed further away to live in underground caves. We could feel and imagine the darkness around them that increased our worry for the hunger, sickness and danger they faced.

My Real Name Hanna is written with compassion, empathy and hope.  We could see from the detailed description the research and consideration Tara Lynn Masih, put into this story. The characters came alive for us and I kept imaging the real family Tara Lynn Masih, based this story on.

I highly recommend this one as a must read for any Historical Fiction lover and for readers looking for an inspiring story of survival and sacrifice.

Thank you to Mandel Vilar Press and Tara Lynn Masih for a copy to read and review. 
Profile Image for PattyMacDotComma.
1,435 reviews814 followers
April 5, 2022
April 2022. As Ukraine fights for survival now, I am sharing again this powerful story of Ukrainian Jews during the Holocaust. Hanna reminds me of Anne Frank.
“My family told stories. We swallowed them in place of food and water. Stories kept us alive in our underground sanctuary. The world continued to carry out its crimes above us, while we fought just to remain whole below.

Yesterday, daughter, you found my copy of Joan of Arc, hidden under dark rafters for many years.”
. . .
“I close my eyes, and it’s as if I am there again, in the dark, trying to live to see another day.
So now it is my turn to tell you a story, my darling daughter. My story. Finally. May it not harm you. May it feed you in some way and give you hope.

This is a hard read. Don’t get me wrong – it’s easy enough to understand because it’s written for young people. But it is hard on the heart the way The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank is hard. If you haven't experienced this, it’s impossible to imagine your own family living through it. Based on real stories, particularly those of one family, Masih has given us a kind of Anne Frank in Ukraine.

The narrator is Hanna Slivka, a young Jewish girl in Ukraine whose family is increasingly threatened by the Nazis. Ukrainians had already survived famine and oppression under Stalin – well, some of them survived. Now they were facing Hitler, whose troops were gradually restricting the freedom of the Jews. Some fled to other countries, while others wanted to stay in their homes, figuring they’d already survived the worst.

Hanna’s family stays put for the time being. Her father is needed in the village to repair equipment, so he’s protected for a time. Hanna is friends with Mrs Petrovich, Alla, a Christian who lives nearby and who makes decorated eggs which she sells to clients at Easter as symbols of luck. Different symbols painted on them bring different kinds of luck, and Hanna is a great help to her as the old lady’s hands and fingers are stiffening up.

Because Alla is a kind old lady who often gives the family food, Hanna is allowed to go to help her (which she loves!) in return.

“My people were once sun worshippers, long before the man who we believed was Christ was born. In the spring, we made these eggs and gave them away as talismans. Because the sun god was the most important deity in our religion, birds were the sun’s chosen creations because they were the only ones, man or beast, who could even come close to him in flight. We humans could not catch birds or be a bird, but we could get to their eggs, a source of life.”

So there you have Easter Eggs.

Before long, Jews are forbidden from working and from getting full rations at the butcher or baker. A pair of boys who have a wagon deliver things back and forth and are allowed to keep working, but they are obviously terrified at what they’re witnessing. Hanna eavesdrops and hears them tell her father about a slaughter where they drove the Jews into the river.

‘Women and children, too!’
‘The soldiers played music while they watched,’
Jacob says quietly. ‘It was not of this world. The gramophone sending such beautiful classical notes through the valley while this slaughter took place. The music could not cover the sounds of the drowning or the machine gun fire.’

When the family gets word that the soldiers are beginning to take over homes and shoot people, they have to make some heart-breaking decisions. How Hanna and her family deal with being the hunted is the stuff of nightmares. She takes her beloved Mark Twain book, Personal Recollections of Joan Of Arc with her everywhere and is inspired by how strong Joan of Arc was.

Hanna has blond hair, which draws less attention to her than to the others in the family if they are seen. When she is the one who has to go alone into the forest, she remembers much of what old Alla taught her.

“Alla teaches me about spirits. And that everything in nature means something. That the world outside is basically a map for us, with all the guidance and answers we need.”

Because she’s studied the forest and listened and paid attention to the smallest details she has learned to be brave.

“I am no longer afraid to walk in the dark. Moonlight might be a companion, but darkness and shadows have become my friends. The night covers me like a velvet cloak. And I am no longer afraid of the night animals. They have no wish to harm us if we leave them alone.”

It's a short, poignant novel, and the author’s notes at the end are terrific, explaining much of the background and her research.

A new book about an old story that I hope will remain an old story, but with the current push by world bullies to turn our backs on anyone different, I worry.

Thanks to NetGalley and Mandel Vilar Press for the preview copy from which I’ve quoted.
Profile Image for Sue.
1,244 reviews534 followers
July 16, 2018
My Real Name is Hanna is a book that has come at the right time, a time when we all, young and old, need to be reminded of the cost of evil on and in society. We meet Hanna in her small Ukrainian village in 1941. Anti-semitism is rising, with taunting and school yard cruelty. Soon this will be replaced with more lethal threats but, for now, the Russians have taken control and have “only” limited all religious observances. If the Germans gain control of Ukraine, everything will change. Most of the children are too young to understand or care about such things but Hanna, turning 14, understands enough to worry for herself, her family, friends, and all of the Jews who are threatened. She is human enough to worry for her good neighbors of all faiths.

Ultimately, the German war machine does push the Russian army out of the country and begin its program of “freeing” towns of Jews. First they are identified, then labeled with the infamous star, then rounded up, then shipped off or killed where they stand. This story may be old to some but forgotten or unknown by many. Here we see some variations on this theme of extermination but the cruelty is the same.

Hanna’s story, based on that of a real family similarly threatened, takes a different, often terrifying path. Before the Slivka family can be taken, they plan and, with others, leave carefully to hide as long as necessary in the forest or wherever else they must go in order to live. This hiding will last for many, many months in the forest, followed by many more underground.

Masih has provided many cultural and religious insights within her story, fitting them seamlessly into the narrative of family events, adding to the value of the text as a young adult novel. There is also reference made to a readers guide in the afterword; this would be a helpful study guide. As I indicated above, I do believe that My Name is Hanna is a valuable book for our time. In a time where values and beliefs seem to be confused, it is helpful to read a beautiful book celebrating resilience and familial bonds and survival. This is a book adults can read with children. Both will benefit.

A copy of this book was provided by the publisher through NetGalley in return for an honest review.
Profile Image for Elyse Walters.
4,010 reviews43 followers
May 21, 2020
“The world felt so still yesterday, but today, it all seems to be moving around us again”.

I’ve been meaning to read this young adult book forever. I knew it would be tender...as it’s inspired by a real family - The Stermer family -Jews living in Ukraine during the Holocaust.

A quick young adult read that I enjoyed very much.
I cried at the end ... was really touched.
The author touched my heart. Tara’s writing was soooo lovely - and yes, TENDER, as I hoped and imagined it might be. It was everything I want, from an author who writes about the Holocaust....
Written beautifully with much dignity.

At the start, Hanna is about to share some devastating memories with her daughter. Not to harm her daughter -but to inform.... it’s part of her history too.
“I will say my real name to
you for the first time. Hanna Slivka. Don’t be scared. I am still your mother. Born on February twenty-second, in the winter of 1928. Your grandmother often told me to remember this date because that was the day that God allowed me into this world to breathe my first soul breath of chilled Ukrainian air”.

“My family told stories. We swallowed them in place of food and water. Stories kept us alive in our underground sanctuary. The world continued to carry out its crimes above us, while we fought just to remain whole below”.

The story begins....
The Shtetele....( a small town)
May 1941-October 1942
The Stermer’s were a Polish family, living in Kwasova, on September 1, 1939, when Hitler invaded from the west with thousands of tanks on land and planes overhead.
They were part of a Jewish community in a small town made up of Galician people who were originally Russian, Polish, and Ukrainian.

It was spring....a time of
blooming lavender lilacs in the gardens— smoky blue skies— fruit trees with papery-fine white petals,
baby blue and pink forget-me -nots grew wild.
Primroses and yellow king-cups —
Red poppies—
The town sounded so lovely.
Jewish families were preparing for Passover in the spring.... keeping a low profile.
Hanna didn’t hear the bombs dropping in Paris.... but she saw smoke from over the hill.
The community was looking forward to a parade which was a formal march of sheep and cattle herders.
The locals were celebrating life together, dancing, ringing of church bells on horses’ manes and harnesses and on wood wagons.
It was their last time of joyful festivities. Hitler was approaching —army invaded their world.

A journey to survive begins...
told so eloquently - rich in descriptive experience and through the characters.
I enjoyed not only the dialogue between the characters, but Hanna’s inner voice, and her ‘Joan of Arc’ strength.

Hanna speaks highly of her family:
”Our mother is a great worker, Papa always says it’s why he married her. He’s never known a woman who worked harder. He wanted an equal partner, he told his matchmaker, that she’d known just the right young woman for him—Leonid Kaidanov’s girl, Eva—my mother. Leeba is just like her, better at sitting still and concentrating than I am, and wonderful with a needle and thread and knitting tools, so she was given my praise from our mother. I try not to let it bother me. Mostly it doesn’t”.

Leeba, was Hanna’s sister, two years younger.
Symon, Hanna’s brother was two years younger than Leeba.
Leon .... he’s a special friend....a lovely relationship to have for any coming of age young person.

It’s Hanna’s birthday:
“Today, I get a pretty new dress that Mama has cut down and fashioned from her old gingham dress— with a daisy pattern and yellow porcelain buttons.
Comrade Stalin does not allow his people more than one change of clothes.
We were told he believes it is a bad thing to have too many possessions, but mama hide this one under her mattress when the clothes and furs were confiscated, knowing that later she would make it for my birthday”.

Hanna just turned fourteen.
Her parents were hiding two boys - Pavel and Jacob Cohan - in their barn. Stepan Illiouk, the local farmer,
dropped the boys off.
Papa told Hanna that they were fleeing for their lives.
“They are people like us”,
he says. Jewish.
We learn more as the story continues just how gracious these boys are.

Jews were no longer able to leave Europe.
But that didn’t stop Jews from trying. It was estimated that only 5% of Ukrainian Jews, and only 2% of Western Ukrainian Jews, survived, with almost no families intact

Mrs. Petrovich, (Alla), was a non-Jew neighbor and great friend to the Stermer family.
Hanna, with the new birthday apron from
Mrs. Petrovich, helped clean chicken and goose eggs, preparing for Mrs. Petrovich’s - families Easter. They had a special bond, Alla Petrovich took Hanna under her wing and was a great adult role model.
When things became really dangerous— and Hanna’s father, (Abram), was gone for a couple days looking for a place for his family to hide—-
the family planned on giving their dog Ovid, to Mrs Petrovich, for safe keeping.
Mrs. Petrovich was a great heroine- as was any non-Jew during the Holocaust who helped Jews survive- risking their own lives in doing so.

The Forest ( into the forest they go)....
October 1942 to April 1943
Hanna says:
“I was afraid, and went deeper into the wood, then I carved a mark in the bark of a tree, saying to myself it may be that I am dreaming and have not seen this vision at all. I will come again, when I know that I am awake and not dreaming, and see if this mark is still here; then I shall know”.

There is an abundance of gorgeous writing:
“I am beginning to realize that freedom means you can be who you are meant to be, whatever that is. That freedom is different for different people. That breathing without any thought to it as a gift”.
“Now, I think about breathing all the time. What is it like to take your last breath? What if the sound of it gave you away?”

So many beautiful moments - from moonlight walking...to traditional Jewish food descriptions...to appreciating animals... to experiences of strength, bravery, and love.

There are wonderful characters in this historical story…
....as the author, Tara Lynn Mash, herself said (which I agree fully),
‘Alla Petrovoch’, a fictional character, ”became one of my favorite characters in the book, perhaps because, for me, she symbolizes our that is good in this world”.

Beautiful book! So glad I didn’t miss reading it.
Highly recommend!!!

Profile Image for Mackey.
1,057 reviews364 followers
September 23, 2018
My Real Name is Hannah is a beautifully written story based on a compilation of real life stories. 

The story is told from the perspective of a young Ukrainian girl set during WWII. It is the story of struggle and survival at a time when it was a death sentence to be a Jew. I was unclear while reading the book if it was meant to be for adults or, perhaps, teens but the simplistic writing style would suggest that latter. One of the aspects that I most enjoyed was the author's inclusion of Ukrainian folk tales. Unless one is very interested in eastern literature, and I am, then I'm sure that these will be new and enlightening. 

My Real Name is Hannah is now sale at your local bookstore and can be found in most libraries. I also suggest that you read Diary of a Young Girl: Anne Frank and The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom
Profile Image for Lori Elliott (catching up).
733 reviews1,778 followers
October 9, 2018
‘My name is Hanna Slivka. I was born on February twenty-second, in the winter of 1928. I am still breathing. This is my story.’

The simplness of this story is what I found most endearing about this novel. It is told in a straight forward manner with no ‘fluff’, which I appreciated. Hanna’s story comes as her daughter asks about a book she finds with marks in it. What follows is a story of survival under extreme circumstances. The huge lose of human life is so incomprehensible. With every novel I read about WWII my eyes are opened wider and my heart is left a little more broken. 4 stars.
Profile Image for Lady Clementina ffinch-ffarowmore.
762 reviews170 followers
July 16, 2018
My thanks to NetGalley for a review copy of this book.

This is a story told by Hanna Slivka to her daughter, about a part of her life that she has so far kept hidden from her—when at fourteen, she was living with her family in Russian occupied Ukraine. Life had become hard, their possessions reduced because of the strict rules the communists went by, and religion, also taboo to the communists, was something that couldn’t be practised as openly as when they were ‘free’. But these hardships seem nothing compared to what lay ahead for the Jewish family (and others in their village) when Hitler invades. Initially, the impact on them is in terms of helping persecuted people from other villages and towns to escape, more restrictions on food and resources, and having to face taunts and insults from some members of the community they have been part of. But before long, despite many friendly and kind (and indeed brave) neighbours’ help in keeping them safe in their own house, they soon have to leave and go into hiding for safety. For a period of over two years they must live, first in an isolated forest cabin, and then in an underground cave with others of their community, with precious little to eat, fearing for their lives every minute, not only from the Germans but also from many in their own village/surroundings who are willing to turn against them as easily. Thankfully for them, not all are like that and they do manage to get help from various friends, particularly their neighbour Alla Petrovich, and friend, farmer Yuri Janowski.

While this story is a piece of fiction, the author has based it on a true incident of the Stermer family who survived the war living in such caves for over 500 days, a family who survived intact in a country where only 5 per cent and region where only 2 per cent of Jews survived. This is a very hard book to read and yet such an important one, for it brings us face to face with perhaps the ugliest side of humanity, as well as I guess, the best side. While the Slivkas do not see the worst of the Nazi atrocities, what little they see or hear of is also something that words can’t really describe. (I couldn’t help but wonder, one would dub Hitler as ‘mad’ at the least for the way his warped mind worked, but what about those hundreds of thousands who followed in his footsteps and perpetuated unspeakable atrocities? What is worse, as the author too writes in her note at the end, is human beings don’t seem to have learnt from this and continue to persecute on the basis of religion, of skin colour, of race.) The hardships (too mild a word, really) the family and their friends face in having to live with so little, in circumstances that we would wish on no living creature, and always having to look over their shoulder, perpetually being in fear of their lives is something that one can’t even imagine. What immense courage it must have taken to have the will to fight on, to live on, when literally everything seems against you, the invaders but also people that were of their own place, and the very the circumstances in which you are forced to live—disease, sickness, and malnutrition posing equally serious threats of their own. Each page one reads, each day that one reads of is heart-breaking. But there is hope in that for all of those who were cruel, who turned against their own, there were as well a few, who stood by them, facing as much danger of being caught and punished. They at least show that there is some ‘human’ left in human beings.

But amidst all of this suffering and pain and heartbreak, there was something that kept the families’ lives somewhat normal, and brought a ray of pleasantness into the reader’s experience and this was how rich in culture this book was. The festivals that the Slivkas observed (now so much more familiar to me since I read All-of-a-Kind Family), the birthdays, were something, that even if could not be observed openly or fully as they were before, gave them something to hold on to, something that made life more liveable perhaps, though later, when food and resources becoms more and more scarce, these too are no longer there. But I loved the descriptions of these in the initial parts of the book as I did those of the local culture, Alla Petrovich’s egg-painting (pysanky), the local parades and festivals, and daily life.

I haven’t read many books with a holocaust theme (only Anne Frank’s Diary, really), mostly because I know how heart-rending they will be (and how hard to handle), but I realise, it is also so very important to read them, to face how low human being can fall, how little they deserve the superiority they assume, though there are those in every circumstance, who certainly do deserve every accolade, who are really ‘human’. This is certainly one such books and I can’t recommend it highly enough.
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