Renia’s Diary. A Young Girl’s Life in the Shadow of the Holocaust
By Renia Spiegel
Translated by Marta Dziurosz and Anna Blasiak
Published by Ebury Press
Publication date: 19 September 2019
July 15, 1942, Wednesday
'Remember this day; remember it well. You will tell generations to come. Since 8 o’clock today we have been shut away in the ghetto. I live here now. The world is separated from me and I’m separated from the world.'
Renia is a young girl who dreams of becoming a poet. But Renia is Jewish, she lives in Poland and the year is 1939. When Russia and Germany invade her country, Renia’s world shatters.
Separated from her mother, her life takes on a new urgency as she flees Przemysl to escape night bombing raids, observes the disappearance of other Jewish families and, inally, witnesses the creation of the ghetto.
But alongside the terror of war, there is also great beauty, as she begins to find her voice as a writer and falls in love for the first time. She and the boy she falls in love with, Zygmunt, share their first kiss a few hours before the Nazis reach her hometown. And it is Zygmunt who writes the final, heartbreaking entry in Renia’s diary.
Recently discovered after seventy years, Renia’s Diary is already being described as a classic of Holocaust literature. Written with a clarity and skill that is reminiscent of Anne Frank, it is an extraordinary testament to both the horrors of war, and to the life that can exist even in the darkest times.
The diary shows the innocent, everyday musings of a teenage girl who is transixed by first loves and filled with hopes for the future. We who read her writings are possessed of something she did not have: knowledge of the outcome.
The tension between an increasingly bleak reality and an optimism about what might still be possible cannot help but captivate the reader. Renia was illed with a zest for life and possessed an extraordinary ability to describe in prose and poetry the beauty of the world around her.