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We Must Never Lose Hope

Roni Rosenthal Author Interview

Where the Lilacs Bloom Once Again is based on the true historical experiences of generations of a Jewish Romanian family and their acquaintances before World War II. Why was this an important book for you to write?

There are two main reasons that led me to write this book and to reveal my family’s stories. It was especially important for me to publish the book now.

The personal motive relates to my father’s death.

In December 2009 my father passed away. I went home for the funeral and found an old family photo album, a handwritten family tree, and a note that read “Write their stories, tell the world what really happened to them.”

And so, I did.

I wrote this book to tell my family’s stories. I wrote this book to give the silenced stories a voice.

My second motive for writing this book relates to the increasing incidents of anti-Semitism that we are experiencing these days. I believe with all my heart that history is doomed to repeat itself.

We must keep telling, we must share our past, we must learn from history, otherwise, the truth may be lost, and hate is doomed to be repeated.

What research did you undertake for this book to ensure you got all the details right?

The book is a culmination of 12 years of family research. I was able to find a lot of supporting and personal documents, but there are still many questions that remain open.

After my father’s funeral I returned back home. I had the old family album, the handwritten family tree and many questions.

I started researching. I read everything I could find about the history of Romania in general and the history of the Jewish communities in Romania in particular. I interviewed dozens of people, relatives who are still with us, and their children and grandchildren who knew little or some about their family’s history in Romania.

For many hours, I sat in the archives and read, researched and asked. I was able to find some old personal documents as birth certificates, photos of graves, and more.

I reached out to Jewish organizations and other research groups via social media and Facebook groups. I also received help from an organization who research the communist crimes

The puzzle is not complete. I continue to research and learn and dig into every piece of information.

The Romania’s archives and databases are few and limited, but I refuse to give up. I continue to search, to look for more answers, and I will not rest until I find the last piece of the puzzle.

What were some ideas that were important for you to share in this book?

The family I grew up in was loving, warm and close-knit. My father was an honest, hard working man who believed in the values of modesty, humility, and honesty. I admired those qualities in my father. Family was a top value for Dad and from a young age he made sure to visit the “elders” in the family, respect them, and learn from their wisdom.

In this book I present the family stories on which I grew up and was educated upon. Honest and kind people who had to deal with an oppressive and murderous regime. My great-grandmother Rosa, who lost her brother and his family in the Iasi massacre, my grandmother Aurica (Golda) who had to flee and leave behind everything that was familiar to her, and my grandmother’s cousin, Friddie, an innocent young girl who fell in love with the wrong man, was arrested, tortured, accused of a crime she didn’t commit, and spent 13 years in prison and in labor camp.

And despite all the suffering they went through, they continued to believe in compassion, in justice, in the kindness of mankind.

What is one thing you hope readers take away from your book?

We must remember, we must respect our elders, learn from their wisdom, and we must never lose hope. There is always a new day, a better world, a world where humanity will succeed in overcoming evil. We should never forget our history, and we should never let evil overcome.

Author Links: GoodReads | Twitter | Facebook | Linkedin

Friddie, 18, is an ordinary yet rebellious young Jewish woman, living in Bucharest in the 1930s. Born and raised in Romania’s capital, she dreams of living as a “free Romanian woman.”
After calling off her wedding to a young, parentally-approved accountant, she escapes to a city on the coast, where she meets a scientist-perfumer named Freddy. He is the true love she has been looking for—and a ticket to her dream.
Soon, though, that dream turns into a nightmare she never could have predicted.

Friddie’s story of incredible hardship is interwoven with the stories of her family. We follow her Aunt Rosa’s life as the glue of her household, even though she loses her husband in mysterious circumstances; her Uncle David, who dreams of becoming a schoolteacher and starting a family in Iași, and her cousins, who uproot their lives in Bucharest to start again in Israel.
In this tragic-heroic novel, the true stories, the victims, and the small moments of happiness are revealed in the Danube’s labor camps, under the fascist-dictatorial and communist rule that has been a part of Romania for so many years.
Based on the true experiences of a Jewish Romanian family, Where the Lilacs Bloom Once Againunearths stories that could so easily be lost to the passage of time. This family’s tale has emerged at a critical time, to show the need for compassion and kindness, even in the hardest moments.

About the author
Roni (Aharona) Rosenthal, PhD, was born in Haifa, Israel. She is named after her grandfather Aharon, who passed away eight months before her birth.
Roni is the Director of Judaic Studies and a Hebrew Literature Professor at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. This is her third novel.

Where the Lilacs Bloom Once Again

Where the Lilacs Bloom Once Again is based on the true historical experiences of generations of a Jewish Romanian family and their acquaintances before World War II. The novel focuses on Friddie, a young woman of Romanian descent who dreams of living freely. At eighteen, Friddie rebelliously cancels her marriage and, against her family’s wishes, marries Freddy. Their union is short-lived however, leading to years of adversity for Friddie. Her story is told alongside that of her family members, like Aunt Rosa, Uncle David and her Cousins who are victims of the dictatorial and communist rule that plagued Romania for years.

It is clear from the author’s narration that Friddie’s story is an important landmark in the family’s history, passed down from generation to generation. Although I felt the stories were disconnected at the beginning, they slowly came together with different perspectives. It is a tragic story of a large family that was scattered abroad due to anti-Semitism. It is sadly ironic that Freddie, who dreams of living as a free woman, spends the better part of her youth locked up under the worst circumstances.

This thought-provoking and impassioned novel showcases the gruesome loss of lives, grief and the inhumanity during one of the most difficult times in human history. Some of the scenes are graphic, featuring explicit descriptions of maiming, slavery, genocide, and infanticide. Despite these, a love story is forged in the most unlikely place, reestablishing the theme of keeping hope alive when things seem hopeless.

The author’s writing style is easy to follow and how she tells the story keeps the reader engaged throughout. There are heartbreaking moments, but the book also shares wisdom and great life lessons. Where the Lilacs Bloom Once Again by Roni Rosenthal is a tragic but beautiful story that is evocative and heart wrenching but ultimately uplifting.

Pages: 203 | ASIN: B0BC5LF1KQ

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