Where She Came From: A Daughter's Search for Her Mother's History by Helen Epstein
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
This is one of the best Holocaust memoirs I've read. In it, Helen Epstein traces her mother's roots to find out more about the life of both her mother and maternal grandmother back in the author's birth country of former Czechoslovakia, a place the author spent only the first year of her life before she and her parents emigrated to the United States. But she goes even further back in time to discover much about the history and culture of Czech Jews many generations prior to her grandmother's. One of the best things about this book at the time I read it is that it was the best source I had found on the history and lives of Czech Jewry.
The author states that she found her mother an utterly amazing person, and that fact inspired her to learn more about her mother and "where she came from;" hence, the title. And I think that if you read this book, you'll think that her mother was amazing, too!
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Yesterday I visited the Old Jewish Cemetery in the Zizkov neighborhood of Prague for the first time. Prague actually has several Jewish cemeteries, only one of which is still in use, and some of which are only remnants of what they once were.
When most visitors come to Prague, they tour the Old Jewish Cemetery, which is located in Prague’s historic Jewish Quarter. However, there are others that are worth a visit, and the Old Jewish Cemetery in Zizkov, though a bit out of the city center, is one of them.
Located next to the space-age TV tower (the needle in the sky that you can’t miss in Prague’s distant skyline), the Zizkov cemetery was founded in 1680 when the plague swept through Prague and burials within what were then the city limits were forbidden. Next to it a Christian cemetery was also founded, and both were initially used only when necessary due to epidemics (a second wave of the plague came through in the early 18th century, and burials again took place in the Zizkov cemetery). However, after 1786, it was used as Prague’s main burial place for the city’s Jewish community, when all burials within the city limits were banned.
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I am an American who has been living in Prague for two decades. After a long career in international finance, I left the business world to pursue other interests. I now work as a writer, mentor and guide to the city.