I have just finished reading ‘Sasha & Olga’, by Eva Maria Chapman, a remarkable true story of courage, suffering, survival, loyalty and love, and I have been profoundly moved at many moments during this amazing account of human endeavour and experience. It is an inspiring, and well-written catharsis that is rich in research, experience and an abiding love of all humanity both familial and universal. It is a vitally important family chronicle that tells the story of so many who lived through that terrible time of World War 2 in Europe, and survived to make new lives in new and alien lands far from the bosom of loved ones and a life that had been their preordained destiny.
One can only feel overwhelming admiration for Eva’s father Sasha, not only because of the dark and menacing struggles he faced as Eva’s mother slipped further into that terrifying world of psychosis, but also because of his resolve, strength and love for his family that drove him to triumph in the face of such adversity. Such as he are the heroes of life, and it is apt that Eva took his ashes from Australia and scattered them in the hero’s harbour at Odessa, Sasha’s birthplace. The book stands as a powerful testimony to the courage of the brave victims of a world gone mad that eventually drove them to a certain madness to escape the horrors of a life born of a coincidence of time and place. While Sasha strove for success and became wealthy, Olga strove for the life she’d dreamed of in the Ukraine and entered the dark world of madness. In spite of her irrational behaviour and cruelty to Eva, what is revealed is a great love of a mother for her daughter, and her gripping escape from Communist Czechoslovakia is testimony to the fact that she valued a better future for her daughter. Eva’s reconciliation with Sasha after 30 years of acrimony and bitterness , and his subsequent unburdening of his ghastly past in Nazi occupied Odessa is both shocking and enlightening, as is Eva’s unearthing of Olga’s similarly violent past at the hands of both Stalin and Hitler when she finds Olga’s relatives in the Ukraine. The last time these humble and poor people had seen Olga was when she had been taken as a seventeen year old, by cattle truck as a slave for Germany in 1942
This absorbing and revealing saga, is an affirmation of the true virtues of humanity and the power of love to sustain us through the darkest times. As Shakespeare said, “The Web of our Life is of a Mingled Yarn, Good and Ill Together”