The Circles of Life by Anna Aizic
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My Ukrainian Family’s Odyssey of Secrets, Love and Survival from Pre-War Odessa to the Promised Land and America
Anna Aizic’s memoir in letters manages to transcend numerous potential hazards of the form to engage and enlighten her readers. While she initially put this collection together in order to pay homage to her loved ones and preserve for her children the history of their fascinating family, I believe she has also managed to produce an important historical document.
The personal accounts she includes of life during and after World War II in the stunning port city of Odessa, Ukraine, echo with her remarkable extended family’s indefatigable hope and humor and, as Anna would say, love of Life. Yet they are mixed with the tragic realities of existence in a Communist system that had no tolerance for Jews who wished to escape its rule. Anna Aizic’s memoir follows her family’s eventual yet imperfect escape to Israel, the ultimate goal as taught to all by her beloved Zeida in his secret Ulpan of the late 1960s and early 1970s. It also reveals how, despite a penchant for tragedy that seems to follow her family from Odessa to Israel and even to America, where Anna is eventually diagnosed with — and survives — metastatic breast cancer, the seemingly unbearable is somehow overcome due to her family’s powerful legacy that includes not only hope and humor, but a willingness to acknowledge, savor and share its stories.
A compelling saga of faith, wisdom, adventure, love, pain, struggles, and – through it all – an enduring spirit, Anna Aizic’s inspiring tome demonstrates an accomplished, talented, and educated artist and her family while it traces her roots in the context of living under the dark shadow of an oppressive Communist regime. “The Circles of Life” chronicles her journey from the Ukraine to Israel and ultimately the United States, through both enlivening humor and chilling reality.
Anna’s letters to her children, written when she feared she may not be able to pass on her family history in person, give a moving and fascinating insight to life in Ukraine during its troubled history. The warmth of family life shines through the many anecdotes. The moves to Israel, and later the USA, inform the reader of the many issues facing Jewish families in alien countries, and yet the humor and personality of the writing make it a good read. The letter format helps to make it a series of short stories that can be read in short bursts, and I felt that I was educated along the way without having to work too hard! Bless you Anna for sharing your inspirational family with us all.
“The Circles of Life” is a gripping story that will engage the reader in Aizic’s heritage and illuminates a spark of life that could never be extinguished. Demonstrating the best of humanity while communicating like a long-lost friend, this book will leave an indelible imprint and prompt you to wonder what the future holds for this remarkable woman, whose story is not yet finished.