The Last Bright Days: A Young Woman's Life in a Lithuanian Shtetl on the Eve of the Holocaust

Edited by Frank Buonagurio. Jewish Heritage and the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research, $39.95 (165p) ISBN 978-0-9677697-9-0
In the 1930s, Beile Delechky was a young woman growing up in the Jewish shtetl of Kavarsk, Lithuania, where she and her brother Moishe were the unofficial town photographers. Just three years before the city's Jewish inhabitants were destroyed by the Nazis in 1941, Delechky left Kavarsk for America, bringing with her hundreds of photographs. Compiled by Buonagurio, and supplemented with his own commentary as well as passages of Delechky's journals and poetry (both photocopied and translated), these photographs show a vibrant Kavarsk, "a typical Lithuanian market town and...microcosm of Jewish life" as it was between the two World Wars. Given that most of her friends and family would die at the hands of the Nazis, the excerpts of her writings are often portentously chilling: "There is hope that the snow will come to an end," she writes, "There is hope that once again we will behold the green grasses on which we can lie down and rest." Many photographs depict Delechky's friends and family engaged in quotidian activities, like swimming in the Sventa River, posing in the snow, putting on plays, and harvesting apples. The final pages tell the story of Delechky's journey to America, including her passage through Nazi Germany on Kristallnacht. She eventually settled in San Francisco, but never returned to Lithuania. This collection is a beautiful preservation of Jewish life. Photos and maps. (Mar.)
Reviewed on: 02/06/2012
Release date: 03/01/2012
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