Anna MüllerJun 30, 2023
An Ordinary Life?
The Journeys of Tonia Lechtman, 1918-1996
Ohio University Press 2023
With An Ordinary Life? The Journeys of Tonia Lechtman, 1918-1996 (Ohio University Press, 2023), historian Anna Müller has produced a beautifully written book that is part biography, part family ethnography, part critical meditation on the challenges and contradictions of historical sourcework. Honest and illuminating reflections on the process of crafting an intimate portrait from a scholarly perspective are interwoven with an illuminating case study of migration, motherhood, identity, and incarceration in mid-twentieth-century Europe. Tonia Lechtman was a Jew, a loving mother and wife, a Polish patriot, a committed communist, and a Holocaust survivor. Throughout her life these identities brought her to multiple countries—Poland, Spain, France, Germany, Switzerland, and Israel—during some of the most pivotal and cataclysmic decades of the twentieth century. In most of those places, she lived on the margins of society while working to promote communism and trying to create a safe space for her small children. One woman’s national, political, ethnic, social, and personal identities impart an extraordinary perspective on the histories of Europe, Polish Jews, communism, activism, and survival during the twentieth century.
Piotr H. Kosicki is Associate Professor of History at the University of Maryland, College Park. He is the author of Catholics on the Barricades (Yale, 2018) and editor, among others, of Political Exile in the Global Twentieth Century (with Wolfram Kaiser).