Remembering Ottilia

When I first started writing P.A.W.S. I knew I would have to at some point go back and write Celia and Max’s story. The characters are dear to me as they are based off my own omama and opapa, who fled from Nazi-ruled Vienna. Here is a picture of them on their wedding day. It’s the same picture I visualized in P.A.W.S. that Miri carries around with her.

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My omama and opapa, Finny and Max, made a very difficult decision in 1939. They sent their only child, six-year-old Walter, to England on the Kindertransport. This was my father and without the kindness of the British people who took in child refugees like my dad, I would not exist today to tell my story. His parents, my omama and opapa, were luckier than most. They were able to follow their son and the family was reunited.

Not all of the family survived. Recently I went through the documents and photographs that my father had gathered over the years and found notifications of two family members who had died at the hands of the Nazis.

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One of them was named Ottilia and I use her name in Umbrae in her memory. In my story she survives.

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In these difficult times it is important to remember and retell our history. As George Santayana said, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”