Sasha & Olga’ tells the story of how my mother, Olga and I made a gripping escape from Communist Czechoslovakia and went to Australia as displaced persons in 1950, and settled in Adelaide. Unfortunately, Olga could not escape all the persecution she suffered under Stalin and Hitler and eventually descended into schizophrenia and spent the last 17 years in a mental hospital where she had shock treatments and eventually a lobotomy. The strain tore our family apart and Sasha, my stepfather, refused to speak to me for 33 years. Meanwhile I married happily and had successful careers. But something was missing. In 1999, I set out to heal the family I had left behind. This took me back to Ukraine where I found relatives who had last seen Olga in 1942 when she was marched off by the Nazis to be a slave in Germany. They told me terrible stories of Bolshevik persecution and the terrible famines under Stalin (my uncle Trofim died of starvation and his brother Ivan was put in jail where he died, for stealing food for his dying brother). The healing journey I took me to Sasha's bedside in Adelaide where he was dying of cancer. In the last year and a half of his life, we healed all our differences and he told me his terrible stories of the war and how his parents died in in appalling conditions. He was happy I was writing a book about it all. 'At least someone will know about all those poor buggers rottink' in the ground!'
After unburdening his soul, he died a peaceful man. I took his ashes back to Odessa his birthplace, and my mother’s ashes to Tarasivka in Ukraine where she was born. So, although the book is heavy in parts it is also light and hopeful. It is a testimony to the enormous courage of my parents and the hardships they suffered.
Its main themes are that the past can never be buried and that it is never too late to heal broken relationships.
A former teacher, psychotherapist, researcher and successful business woman, I became an author when nursing my stepfather, Sasha for the last 2 years of his life. After a 33-year estrangement, we totally forgave each other and he unburdened the harrowing story of his Jewish family in Ukraine in WW2, and died a happy man. This plus my mentally ill mother’s equally harrowing life, led me to write Sasha & Olga, (Lothian Books 2006). This launched my new career as a writer...