He Walked Through Walls
A Twentieth-Century Tale of Survival
What qualities are needed when your life is in danger, not merely once or twice, but on several occasions? As author Myriam Miedzian shows in this richly detailed story of the lives of her Polish-Jewish father and family, it takes tenacity, forethought, ingenuity, strength, and courage. During World War I, the anti-Semitic Polish authorities imprisoned young Henyek Miedzianagora and his father and brother on a trumped-up charge of spying for the Germans. Rebuffed by military authorities, Henyek's tenacious mother sought out a nobleman business acquaintance of her husband and persuaded him that a mistake had been made; with his help, her husband and sons were set free the day of their scheduled execution. It required courage when as a schoolboy, Henyek decided to go AWOL and risk being shot for desertion rather than experience the pointless slaughter of the Polish–Soviet War of 1919-21.
In 1930, Henyek moved to Belgium, where he married and had two children. His awareness of the fragility of existence in a world that can turn hostile at any moment—a legacy no doubt of his early harrowing experiences—led him to leave Brussels immediately on May 10, 1940 when the Germans attacked Belgium, and not turn back. The family eventually reached New York—via France, Spain, and Morocco, where they spent close to a year. Henyek had the extraordinary foresight, in 1936, to deposit $10,000 in a bank account in the United States, just in case. . . . Sure enough, the money made it possible to obtain visas to the U.S.
In a bravura performance of recollection, reimagination, and characterization, Myriam Miedzian relates the incredible story of her father's three passages from peril to safety in her father's voice. Completing this work of generations, Myriam's daughter, Nadia Malinovich, a professor of Jewish history, fleshes out the historical and cultural background of her grandfather and, indeed, great-grandfather's life in Poland and Belgium during the first half of the twentieth century.