|Painting by Ilie Wacs|
On this week's Writer's Voice, I speak with Eyal Press and with two siblings who fled Nazi Europe to find refuge in China, Ilie Wacs and Deborah Strobin. Their book is Uncommon Journey.
Ilie Wacs & Deborah Strobin
But brother and sister Ilie Wacs and Deborah Strobin have a more unusual story to tell. They and their parents fled Nazi Europe to a very foreign and far place — Shanghai, China. The story of the Shanghai Jewish refugees is one that had barely been told — until the publication of their memoir, An Uncommon Journey.
The family left Europe at the very last minute, sailing out of Genoa, Italy the day before WWII was declared. When they arrived in Shanghai, they underwent hardships and triumphs that left an indelible mark on their lives.
Their memoir alternates the narratives of each sibling — providing a fascinating contrast between their accounts, not least because Ilie was eight years older than his sister. He was 12 when they left Europe — she was only three.
Ilie Wacs is an artist and former fashion designer; his sister Deborah Strobin is a philanthropist.
That’s the question journalist Eyal Press asks in his remarkable book, Beautiful Souls.
Press explores the stories of four remarkable individuals: a Swiss police commander who allowed Jews fleeing Germany entry into Switzerland, against orders; a Serb who rescued Croats during the Bosnian War; an elite Israeli soldier who became a refusnik -- refusing to serve in the Occupied Territories; and a financial advisor who blew the whistle on her employer’s Ponzi scheme.
His thoughtful examination of their stories sheds new light on what motivates those “beautiful souls” who, as the book’s subtitle says, say no, break ranks and heed the voice of conscience in dark times.
Read Louisa Thomas' excellent review of Beautiful Souls in The New York Times.