Friday, March 6, 2015

A LIFE OF THE TWENTIETH CENTURY by Irene Even

A Life of the Twentieth Century is the story of Aya, who lived through the loss of her parents before the age of 3. At the age of twelve she was sent to a boarding school in Budapest, that closed after one year, because the Nazi army marched into the city. 

Aya was left totally alone to face the Nazi occupation, and to experience all the horrors of the war. She faced many life threatening situations, such as prison, bombardment or even the possibility of being executed on the spot, without really comprehending the gravity of it all.

The end of the war was supposed to mean liberation, the return of hope and freedom for most people, however it didn't happen for Aya, who was part of a youth group on her way to Palestine. The destination of this youth group was to reach Italy and the Jewish Brigade. They crossed the Alps on foot from Austria to reach Italy. 


As they reached their destination Aya met a soldier from the Jewish Brigade, who was supposed to be her Hero, her Saviour, but turned out to be the devil incarnate. From day one, this soldier of the Jewish brigade took control of Aya's life when she was only 15 years old.

After divorce, destitute and once again alone, she had no direction and almost no hope, when from deep inside her a small voice said; go back to school. It took all her courage to apply to university, where she was accepted and after 5 year was granted a B.A. and a Diploma of Teaching. She spent the rest of her life teaching, and as she contemplated her life she said to herself that if she had had all the choices in the world, she would have chosen teaching.

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Review
A Life of the Twentieth Century  is the story of Aya's life. The terrible time of WWII that would end in a terrible  marriage that caused more lifetime scares. Her dreams and her struggles to live her dream.  I know the book is considered fiction yet - it is definitely non fiction. Books about life during and after WWII have always intrigued. The strength, will, and faith of the survivors - what they endured and continue to endure their entire lifetime has a special place in my heart. Irene does an excellent job of expressing the moments in her life.  Considering all that she has endured to share with the world her struggles, her hardships, and her dreams that have made her who she is - is her gift to the world. 

About the Author:
Irene Even was born in Hungary. As a child she lived through the Second World War, using

false papers to survive. After the war, she immigrated to Palestine, lived in a Kibbutz, then later married and immigrated to Canada with her family. She returned to Israel to teach English and remained there for twenty-two years. Having written her memoir, A Life of the Twentieth Century, she now lives in retirement in Montreal.


Interview with Irene Even

1) What was it like writing your memoir?
The writing of my memoir was the most amazing experience 
​for​ me because I ha​d​ never known​ what I was going to write about once I set out to do it​. I never kept a diary or made notes; I just sat down in front of the computer and the story
​ ended up​ writing itself, while I was only the facilitator as I worked the key board.

2) What was the most courageous thing you've ever done?
My whole life is a courageous act of survival. There were so many things that I have done when still very young, and I have never seen it as courageous; only as survival. Once, when the Nazi officers were randomly stopping people in the street to check their papers since they were looking for Jews I decided, unbeknownst to me at fourteen, to use reverse psychology by going up to the officer first and asking him if he wanted to see my papers. He waved me off. I was a Jew with false papers. Courageous? No, I was just trying to survive.

3) You lived in Israel for many years and spent some of the most happy years of your life there. What made you return to Montreal?
The first reason I came back to Montreal is that my children live here. The other reason is that Montreal was my home for many years and it was in Montreal where I got my B.A. and my teaching diploma from McGill University that allowed me to pursue my teaching career. Montreal, like Israel is close to my heart

4) You lead a very active lifestyle. Can you tell us how you are making the most of your retirement?
In reality I don't really understand the concept of retirement, because when I retired from teaching I kept going and did many different things. First, I wrote the story of my life, then I went back to university and got a degree in English literature. Now I am still in university and in my last year of finishing my degree in philosophy.

5) Any advice for persons entering retirement? 
Take care of your health and keep busy as long as you can.

6) They say that the long-term memories become sharper as we grow older. Do you find this to be true in your case?
I really can't tell because in spite of my advanced age I didn't notice any changes in the way my memory functions.

7) If there is one thing you want the readers to remember about you, what would it be?
Since readers don't know me beyond what they read in my book, I would like them to remember me as somebody who wrote a good book that they enjoyed reading.

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