In 2009, Rachael Cerrotti, a college student pursuing a career in photojournalism, asked her grandmother, Hana, if she could record her story. Rachael knew that her grandmother was a Holocaust survivor and the only one in her family alive at the end of the war. Rachael also knew that she survived because of the kindness of strangers. It wasn’t a secret. Hana spoke about her history publicly and regularly. But, Rachael wanted to document it as only a granddaughter could. So, that’s what they did: Hana talked and Rachael wrote.
Upon Hana’s passing in 2010, Rachael discovered an incredible archive of her life. There were preserved albums and hundreds of photographs dating back to the 1920s. There were letters waiting to be translated, journals, diaries, deportation and immigration papers as well as creative writings from various stages of Hana’s life.
Rachael digitized and organized it all, plucking it from the past and placing it into her present. Then, she began retracing her grandmother’s story, following her through Central Europe, Scandinavia, and across the United States. She tracked down the descendants of those who helped save her grandmother’s life during the war. Rachael went in pursuit of her grandmother’s memory to explore how the retelling of family stories becomes the history itself.
We Share the Same Sky weaves together the stories of these two young women—Hana as a refugee who remains one step ahead of the Nazis at every turn, and Rachael, whose insatiable curiosity to touch the past guides her into the lives of countless strangers, bringing her love and tragic loss. Throughout the course of her twenties, Hana’s history becomes a guidebook for Rachael in how to live a life empowered by grief.
APPLE BOOKS REVIEW
Get ready for a powerful true story of survival. As the Nazis came to power, Hana Dubová’s parents sent her to a farm in Denmark where they thought she’d be safe. But that was only the start of Dubová’s journey, as the Czech Jewish teen found herself on a harrowing adventure across Europe before eventually finding her way to the United States as the only member of her family to survive the Holocaust. Dubová’s granddaughter, photojournalist Rachael Cerrotti, lovingly reconstructs these events through Dubová’s diaries and letters. But Cerrotti doesn’t just tell her grandmother’s story—she lives it, retracing Dubová’s monumental trek across Europe and visiting the descendants of the kind, brave people who risked everything to help her survive the perilous trip. The result is a look at this significant slice of history that’s beautifully personal and sharply relevant. We Share the Same Sky is a reminder that the strength of the human spirit is as powerful today as it was 80 years ago.
Cerrotti brings her podcast of the same name to the page with the gripping and deeply moving debut account of her late Jewish grandmother's experience growing up in Nazi-occupied territory during WWII. Cerrotti set out in 2014 to retrace the wartime steps of Hana, her grandmother, and moved from Boston to Europe with only a backpack of belongings and a suitcase of camera gear. As she traveled from Hana's hometown of Prague to Denmark where Hana's parents sent her with other youth as Nazi influence grew Cerrotti forged deep relationships with people from her grandmother's past, visited the death camp where her maternal great-grandparents were murdered, married her soul mate, and grieved a tragic loss when he died from an undiagnosed heart disease a year later. Shot through Cerrotti's lush prose and storytelling are chilling parallels between the rise of authoritarianism leading up to WWII and the present political climate: "Current events felt strange and cyclical," she observes, "as though a new thread were being spun into the web of family stories I was retelling." Capping her story is a heartfelt letter written to Hana in which she muses "we both knew that the passing time before your time passed was something to be acknowledged." The result is an incredible story that's hard to forget.
We Share the Same Sky
Sad story from beginning to the end.