Monday 30 September 2019

Book Review: Renia's Diary by Renia Spiegel

Renia's Diary
Renia Spiegel 
Translated by Anna Blasiak & Marta Dziurosz

Publisher: St Martin's Press
Publication date: 24th September 2019
Genre: Nonfiction/Holocaust 
Pages: 328
Format Read: eBook
Source: Courtesy of the publisher via Netgalley

Renia Spiegel was born in 1924 to an upper-middle class Jewish family living in southeastern Poland, near what was at that time the border with Romania. At the start of 1939 Renia began a diary. “I just want a friend. I want somebody to talk to about my everyday worries and joys. Somebody who would feel what I feel, who would believe me, who would never reveal my secrets. A human being can never be such a friend and that’s why I have decided to look for a confidant in the form of a diary.” And so begins an extraordinary document of an adolescent girl’s hopes and dreams. By the fall of 1939, Renia and her younger sister Elizabeth (nÊe Ariana) were staying with their grandparents in Przemysl, a city in the south, just as the German and Soviet armies invaded Poland. Cut off from their mother, who was in Warsaw, Renia and her family were plunged into war.

Renia's Diary has been translated from the original Polish, and includes a preface, afterword, and notes by her surviving sister, Elizabeth Bellak. An extraordinary historical document, Renia Spiegel survives through the beauty of her words and the efforts of those who loved her and preserved her legacy.

Renia’s Diary is the journal entries of Polish born Renia Spiegel from 1939, age 15 until 1942 when she was murdered, at age 18, by the Nazi’s.

Diaries are an important part of holocaust history. They allow us to hear the voice of those that did not survive. The diarist is writing in the present and has no idea what today’s events may have on things to come.

Renia writes in her diary as if talking to a friend. It is filled with teenage angst; first love, first kiss and jealousies.
At times the war takes a back seat to Renia’s self doubt, troubles with friends and talk about boys. Whilst at other times it is the full focus of her entries. A lot of her feelings are reflected through poetry. She really is an amazing poet!

When the German and Soviet armies split Poland into two zones Renia is living in Przemysl, a small city in south-eastern Poland, with her Grandparents and the yearning for her mother is constant and heart-breaking to read.

As you would expect in a young girls diary some of the entries are obscure. She sometimes uses in-jokes or code words and you need to read between the lines.

As Renia ages you can feel a shift in her entries as she moves from the self-centred anguish of a young teen to a those of a mature woman in love.

The diary is published by Renia’s younger sister Elizabeth who escaped due to the help of Renia’s boyfriend, Zygu, and family friends. Elizabeth fills in a lot of the blanks that are left by the diary.

A must read!

 My rating   4/5



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