A Romanian childhood

Imagine you’re eight years old and trapped behind the Iron Curtain. You and eight of your adult relatives live in a run-down apartment in Communist-ruled Romania. In order to buy food or consumer goods you and your family must wait in endless lines for hours on end. You’re constantly reminded by your parents to never to talk about any of the political discussions that occur in your crowded home, lest the regime’s dreaded Securitate imprison your entire adult household, resulting in you being relegated to a state-run orphanage. While school children in the West engage in nurturing and fun-filled learning exercises, you on the other hand are force-fed a steady diet of Communist propaganda courtesy of a stern disciplinarian. Sick of living under such an oppressive regime, one day your parents tell you your family is emigrating to Israel. You ask why and you’re told, “because we are Jewish.” Stunned, you react with confusion because until then, no one in your entire family has mentioned you’re Jewish. Heck, you don’t even know what the word Jewish means.

Welcome to Haya Leah Molnar’s 2010 memoir Under a Red Sky: Memoir of a Childhood in Communist Romania.  Molnar’s memoir is one of several books I stumbled across at my local public library as part of my quest to wrap up a few reading challenges that I joined at mid-year, specifically Rose City Reader’s European Reading Challenge and Black Sheep Dances’ Eastern European Reading Challenge. Even though her memoir is supposedly marketed to YA readers, probably because the narrator, while still a child, tells her story with a maturity and intelligence a bit beyond her years I still found Under a Red Sky to be readable and engrossing. While some readers have compared Molnar’s memoir to Betty Smith’s 1943 classic novel A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, I thought it shared many elements with a few other Jewish memoirs such as Andre Acimen’s Out of Egypt, Lucette Lagnado’s The Man in the Sharkskin Suit and Marina Benjamin’s Last Days in Babylon.

With the end of the year slightly more than two months away, I’m keeping my fingers crossed that I’ll be able to finish strong when it comes to the above mentioned European reading challenges. Hopefully, Under a Red Sky will help inspire to do so.

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9 Comments

Filed under Eastern Europe/Balkans, Europe, History, Israel, Judaica, Memoir

9 responses to “A Romanian childhood

  1. Wow, this one sounds really good! I’m interested in the idea of a YA memoir — it sounds interesting, since most of the YA I read is fiction.

  2. Cool thing is it really didn’t feel YA. I was pleasantly surprised!

  3. I like sound of this one as well ,thanks for sharing ,all the best stu

  4. Sorry, I have lost track of whether you have finished the European Reading Challenge yet or not. There is a Wrap Up page available, so if you do a wrap up post, please add your link on the page.

    I loved Mormon America, by the way. I’ll poke around for your review.

    • So far I’ve read seven books as part of the challenge-but I want MORE! I’m also doing Black Sheep Dances’ Eastern European Reading Challenge and for that challenges I’ve selected the “Scholar” level of eight books. For that challenge I need to read five more. So it looks like I have my work cut out for me!
      Glad you liked Mormon America too! I found it readable, even-handed and informative.

  5. This sounds like a great suggestion for a Romanian book. (I’m attempting to read a book from every country. )

  6. Pingback: Awards « Biblioglobal

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