By SHELDON KIRSH

The compelling story of blurred identity that Heather Laskey tells in Night Voices McGill-Queen’s University Press) turns largely on the bittersweet reminiscences of Stanislawa (Stasia) Alapin Rubilowicz, a Jewish woman from Poland who currently lives in Canada.

Her life – shot through with upheaval, terror, uncertainty, idealism, betrayal, self-hatred and confusion – is a cautionary tale about a period in Poland’s history when a fervent belief in communism supposedly heralded the dawn of an egalitarian society free of anti-Semitism.

Rubilowicz, a medical doctor whose original surname was Grynbaum, was born in Warsaw in 1915 and raised in an ardently assimilationist milieu. The vast majority of Polish Jews, including my own parents, were proud of their rich traditions, which stretch back a thousand years. But the Grynbaums broke that mould with a bang.

“At Easter, we painted eggs,â€? she recalls, offering one of the first clues of their estrangement from their roots.“Christmas was celebrated as in any Polish middle-class home with gifts waiting under the candle-lit pine tree and a big dinner with a glazed roast ham. And on All Saints Day we visited our dead in the cemetery – the Jewish cemetery.â€?

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