“Fascinating . . . A tragic saga, but at the same time it often reads like a thriller filled with acts of extraordinary courage, descriptions of dangerous journeys and a series of secret identities.”—Chicago Tribune
“To this day, I don't even know what my mother's real name is.”
Helen Fremont was raised as a Roman Catholic. It wasn't until she was an adult, practicing law in Boston, that she discovered her parents were Jewish—Holocaust survivors living invented lives. Not even their names were their own. In this powerful memoir, Helen Fremont delves into the secrets that held her family in a bond of silence for more than four decades, recounting with heartbreaking clarity a remarkable tale of survival, as vivid as fiction but with the resonance of truth.
Driven to uncover their roots, Fremont and her sister pieced together an astonishing story: of Siberian Gulags and Italian royalty, of concentration camps and buried lives. After Long Silence is about the devastating price of hiding the truth; about families; about the steps we take, foolish or wise, to protect ourselves and our loved ones. No one who reads this book can be unmoved, or fail to understand the seductive, damaging power of secrets.
Praise for After Long Silence
“Poignant . . . affecting . . . part detective story, part literary memoir, part imagined past.”—The New York Times Book Review
“Riveting . . . painfully authentic . . . a poignant memoir, a labor of love for the parents she never really knew.”—The Boston Globe
“Mesmerizing . . . Fremont has accomplished something that seems close to impossible. She has made a fresh and worthy contribution to the vast literature of the Holocaust.”—The Washington Post Book World
Fremont's memoir is an incredible tale of survival, a beautiful love story and a suspenseful account of how the author's investigation of her roots shattered fiercely guarded family secrets. Raised Roman Catholic in a Michigan suburb, Fremont knew that her parents had been in concentration camps. Her Polish mother, Batya, was interned in Mussolini's Italy, and her Hungarian-born father, Kovik, was sentenced to life in the Siberian gulag. But her parents refused to talk about their past, and they never let on that they had been born Jews. Fremont, a Boston lawyer and public defender, and her sister, Lara, a psychiatrist, pieced together their parents' hidden past by examining archives and tracking down Holocaust survivors. As Batya and Kovik gradually opened up to discuss their ordeals, Fremont was able to reclaim her Jewish faith and to make sense of a childhood marked by panic attacks and a hyperactive fantasy life. She also divulged a secret of her own when, at the age of 35, she finally told her mother that she is a lesbian. The bombshell coming-out story is secondary to the harrowing account of her parents' traumas: Batya's escape from Nazi-occupied Poland only to be arrested on the Italian border; the bizarre marriage of Fremont's maternal aunt to a government official in Fascist Rome who helped secure Batya's release from an Italian concentration camp; Kovik's escape from Siberia after six years of hard labor and his 1947 reunion with his fiancee in Rome, where they married as Catholics; the couple's emigration to the U.S. in 1950. Though the story is at times emotionally overwhelming, Fremont writes with an admirable restraint that enables her to turn her parents' life, and her own, into a triumphant work of art. Author tour.