Naomi Lewis will read from her memoir and speak about her experiences retracing her grandfather’s steps Nov. 14 at the Greater Vernon Museum and Archives at 7 p.m. (Submitted Photo)

Okanagan writer digs into identity as a secular Jew

Naomi Lewis reads from memoir and speaks about her experiences retracing her grandfather’s steps

When Naomi Lewis was a child, no one in her family talked about the fact that her grandfather had escaped the Nazi-occupied Europe, largely by foot and through the kindness of strangers. In fact, no one spoke much about that part of their family history, at all.

When Lewis tried to ask questions, her mother dissuaded her.

“Don’t bring it up,” she told her. “He doesn’t like to talk about it.”

When Lewis asked why, her mother answered, “Because when he went back, after the war, his mother was gone. The Germans had killed her.”

After her grandfather’s death, when her parents were moving her grandmother into an assisted living facility, they found a yellowed, type-written document: 30 foolscap pages in Dutch, and 30 pages translated into English. It recounted her grandfather’s escaped from German-occupied Europe and into southern France.

She asked her mother what they should do with it, but Lewis explains, “All her life, Mum had know, this was the box you didn’t open,”

Lewis’s grandmother was still living, and said she remembered the journal well, had even translated it herself. “But who knows,” Lewis’s mother said. Her grandmother was in the stages of dementia in which “she rearranged every story around herself as the centre.”

“She could not have borne the version in which this document sat at the bottom of a box through her entire marriage, without her knowledge,” said Lewis.

Lewis, an award-winning short story writer and novelist now living in Kelowna, transcribed her grandfather’s journal and, as she did, his voice returned to her, along with hints of his humour. Later, she traced her grandfather’s route, traveling along from Amsterdam to Lyon, discovering family secrets along the way.

The resulting memoir, Tiny Lights for Travellers, asks tough questions about identity as a secular Jew, the accuracy of family stories, and the impact of the Holocaust on subsequent generations.

Lewis will read from her memoir and speak about her experiences retracing her grandfather’s steps at the Greater Vernon Museum and Archives Thursday, Nov. 14 from, 7-8:30 p.m. As well, the museum will feature a reading from the letters of former mayor of Vernon, Stewart Fleming, written when he was a pilot and eventual prisoner of war in WW2.

If you have any of your own family’s wartime correspondence, please bring to share. Open to the public, all ages, admission is free. For more information call 250-550-3140.

READ MORE: Vernon takes flight

READ MORE: 98-year-old Armstrong woman designs clothes for Barbie


@VernonNews
newsroom@vernonmorningstar.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Salmon Arm lawyer describes inmate’s positive COVID-19 test as ‘a huge problem’

Virus in the confined space of Okanagan Correctional Centre may be difficult to contain

BREAKING: Inmate at Okanagan Correctional Centre tests positive for COVID-19

This is B.C.’s first community outbreak at a corrections facility

Dogs are property, not kids, judge tells former Salmon Arm couple

Court decision made on competing lawsuits over Zeus and Aurora — a pit bull and pit bull cross

Surprise parade makes Shuswap boy’s 10th birthday less isolated

Friends and strangers alike help Declan Toner celebrate his “best birthday ever”

COVID-19: Interior Health orders closure of all fitness centres until May 30

The order is subject to revision, cancellation, or extension

Trudeau rejects mandatory stay-at-home order for now; COVID deaths up

The virus has now infected more than 10,000 Canadians and cost 130 their lives

B.C. health care workers gain access to virtual health care options

During COVID-19 many clinics have closed, leaving health care workers with nowhere to turn

Tax collectors, auditors to help field ‘historic’ numbers of benefit-seeking callers

‘If you work for CRA, people think we are just there to take money from your pockets.’

Cowichan couple won’t self-isolate after returning from overseas

New law requires 14 days of self-isolation when returning to Canada

Family uses social media to help truckers find places to eat during pandemic

Restaurants Serving Drivers in Western Canada seeks to provide a list of places open for drivers

Advocates sound alarm over COVID-19 limiting access to contraceptives, abortion

The COVID-19 outbreak has hit sexual-health services from almost every angle

‘We’re working to help every Canadian’: Minister of Middle Class Prosperity

Minister Mona Fortier explains she is working with all levels of government amid COVID-19

Two planes come into close contact above Kelowna

The incident occurred between a WestJet flight and a private plane back in 2019

Most Read