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Children of Willesden Lane

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The Children of Willesden Lane
by Mona Golabek and Lee Cohen

Paperback: 272 pages
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
     Hachette Book Group USA
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0446690279


A poignant and heart-wrenching true story that captures the power of one person’s dedication to music and immense love for the human.” 
Zubin Mehta

“A deeply moving and heartfelt tale…brings tears to the reader’s eyes.” 
Washington Post Book World

A beautiful book. An inspiring tribute to the power of a mother’s love.” 
Meryl Streep

Mona Golabek

Why I Wrote
The Children of Willesden Lane

Meet Author Mona Golabek


About the Book and the Author


In early 1938, Lisa Jura, a young Jewish girl in Vienna, dreamed that one day she would become a concert pianist. In March, her dreams were shattered. German troops took over Austria, her homeland. Lisa JuraShe became a refugee, one of about 10,000 children brought to England before World War II as part of the Kindertransport—a mission to rescue children threatened by the Nazis. Her daughter Mona Golabek and writer Lee Cohen tell her story in The Children of Willesden Lane.


The story of The Children of Willesden Lane opens soon after the Nazis turned Austria into a place where Jews were regarded as outcasts. Then it moves to England where Lisa Jura lived in a home for young refugees at 243 Willesden Lane. The story follows Lisa's coming of age during WW11 and her courageous journey to fulfill her dream of music against one of  the darkest periods in history.

Mona Golabek, the author, describes how she came to tell her mother’s story:


“Hold onto your music. It will be your best friend in life
.” As long as I can remember, these precious words have accompanied my journey through life. They are the last words spoken by my grandmother to my beloved mother, Lisa, at the Vienna train station in 1938 as hundreds of crying children said their good-byes forever to their parents and boarded the Kindertransport to escape persecution by the Nazis. My mother started teaching me the piano when I was four years old. She told me fantastic tales of that journey from old-world Vienna to a rambling orphanage at 243 Willesden Lane in London.

Lisa Jura with Aaron, 1946
Lisa Jura with Aaron, 1946
She spoke about mysterious individuals like Aaron, Johnny “King Kong,” Mrs. Cohen who became a mother to thirty refugees, and Hans, the blind boy who waited faithfully each day for her in the basement of the hostel where she practiced the piano as the Blitz ravaged London.

I became a concert pianist because of those words and stories, and because of my mother’s passionate connection to music. Every piano lesson with her was a lesson about life, about love, and about faith.


Twenty years ago, my mother was finally able to show me the photograph that my grandmother had given to her that fateful day at the train station. On the back in shaky handwriting was written the following: “So that you will never forget your mother. . . .”  I was so overwhelmed by the love my grandmother showed in sending her daughter away, losing her forever to save her, that I vowed to share this story with the world.

I hope the strength and joie de vivre my mother showed as a teenager, studying at the London Royal Academy of Music, playing the piano for the soldiers, and ultimately facing the terrible truth of the Holocaust, will be an inspiration for everyone.”

Listen and Download Music from the Story
More About Mona Golabek, Author of the Book







Kindertransport Travelers
Jewish children from Germany on the Kindertransport

What is the Kindertransport?

People around the world were outraged by the treatment of the Jewish people during the German invasion of Europe, but only a few were willing to offer Jewish refugees a safe haven. Among them were a number of Jews and Christians in Britain and Nazi-occupied Europe. These men and women decided to focus their efforts on children under the age of seventeen, because they feared the British would see adults as competitors for jobs, housing, and social services. To counter the argument that the children would be a burden on taxpayers, they promised government officials that private citizens and/or organizations would pay for each child’s care, education, and his or her eventual return home. In return, Britain permitted unaccompanied refugee children to enter the country. Once World War II began, the British banned all further immigration from Nazi-occupied countries.

The first Kindertransport, or children’s transport, from Germany arrived in England on December 2, 1938. The last transport from Germany left on September 1, 1939, just hours before World War II began in Europe. In all, the operation saved nearly 10,000 children, about 7,500 of whom were Jewish.

Vienna train station
Vienna train station

 

Exerpt From the Book

Malka looked at he daughter who was next in line, and held her close.
    "You must make me a promise."
    "What is it, Mama?”
    "You must promise me...that you will hold on to your music. Please promise me that."
    "How can I?" Lisa sobbed. "How can I without you?"  
    She dropped her little suitcase and embraced her mother tightly.
    "You can and you will. Remember what I have taught you. Your music will help you through—let it be your best friend, Lisaleh. And remember that I love you."



     
 
 
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