I listened to the book on audio, read by Juliet Stevenson, and I know the story will stay with me for a long time.
It is a story of “solidaire,” which the Collins Reverso dictionary translates and defines as an adjective meaning “who stand together, who show solidarity; interdependent.”
I am convinced that interdependence and solidarity is the reason the nine survived.
This “standing together” is something the author, a grand-niece of one of the nine, explores in her writing. Her research has led her to believe that women often survived longer in concentration camps partly because they more likely to band together, giving them the strength of a group when sometimes their own strength might wane.
Each woman in Strauss’s book has a distinct character, which comes through clearly. Thus, the women each bring a different strength to the group, and it’s these differences that helped them through the many tragedies and difficulties of their journey.
All were young — younger than my own daughter is now — and active in the French Resistance. All were eventually caught. Some were tortured, a fact Strauss illuminates, but does not dwell on. And all were deported to Ravensbruck for their activities, arriving there in 1944, near the end of the war.
There they banded together and managed to remain together during the many “selections,” somehow avoiding extermination, and ending up at a work camp near Leipzig making guns.
After the invasion at Normandy, the Allies moved through Europe, and it became clear Germany would lose the war. The Nazis responded by forcing those in the camps on death marches, often without food, water, or any apparent destination.
Those who couldn’t walk were put to death. Thousands more — already weak and often diseased from the poor conditions — died on the marches.
The nine in the book chose to escape or die trying.
The story of how they survived, and what happened to them afterward, is something you need to read for yourself.
I will add that this book has made me think about how war is written about, who is chosen to be the “heroes” and who is ignored, why women’s contributions and suffering are often ignored or downplayed, and how ordinary people can be caught up on the wrong side, sometimes against their will. I will ponder on the consequences borne by not only those who lived through war’s tragedies and terrors, but also their children and even their grandchildren.
And I will wonder if — like the nine — I would have had the strength to choose to make decisions based on my convictions of right and wrong and be willing to deal with the aftermath.
Quick Bee Update: Once the weather turned, I took the sugar syrup and honey off the hives, and today I tried a different recipe for bee patties. I learned this new method of making the patties at the most recent meeting of one of our local beekeeping groups.
Based on the speaker’s recipe, I combined one bag of sugar (four pounds) with about 4/5 pint of water and 1 tsp of white vinegar. This I heated to a rolling boil, finally reaching 245F, the minimum recommended by the recipe. After allowing the mixture to cool slightly, I poured it into foil pans to harden. (I actually doubled the recipe, using two bags of sugar, which made three pans.)
If you decide to try this recipe, please be aware that sugar syrup gets very hot, scorches easily, and definitely needs to be watched every minute it’s on the burner because when it boils, it bubbles up quite high in the pan. In fact, I had to ladle some of it out of my pan to prevent a dangerous overflow.
Making it is a hot sticky mess, and it takes a long time to reach 245F.
Mention Cleveland to most folks, and you’ll usually get one of two snickering comments: “Oh, you mean you live near the ‘Mistake on the Lake?'” or “Isn’t that where the river caught fire?”
Well, yes, the Cuyahoga River was once so polluted, it did catch fire. That fire, the one you sometimes hear about, was back in 1969, and the worrying thing is, it wasn’t even the first time the river burned. Things have since improved, and although I don’t think I’ll be taking a dip in the Cuyahoga anytime soon, I would be open to kayaking it.
I’ll be the first to admit the city still has its issues, and that’s okay by me because it means us locals can generally enjoy the area’s many attractions without crowds.
One of the best attractions (and perhaps most surprising to those who don’t live in the area) is the Cleveland Museum of Art, home to more masterpieces than one might expect and totally free thanks to the foresight and generosity of its industrialist founders.
To me, the Art Museum is the crown jewel of Cleveland’s University Circle museums, and today I met my childhood neighbor and friend Sue for a wander around.
Sue and I had both recently been enthralled by the Immersive Van Gogh Exhibition, and ostensibly were visiting the art museum to visit the artist’s works there, as well as catch up on each other’s life.
We did both, but in the process I was struck by several pieces of art I would have sworn I’d never seen before despite visiting the institution every few years.
Of course, there were also some old favorites on display as well.
Because we were there for Van Gogh, we headed to the gallery that focused on the Impressionists. There we found this gentleman, painted by Georges Seurat as a study for “Bathers at Asnieres, about 1883-84.”
Then it was cotton candy clouds in “The Pink Cloud, 1896” by Henri-Edmond Cross.
Camille Pissarro is also represented, and I was absorbed by his “Edge of the Woods near L’Hermitage, Pontoise, 1879.”
Of course, it wouldn’t be an Impressionist gallery without Monet, and though Cleveland has one of the huge water lily paintings, I was drawn to this one, “Low Tide at Pourville, near Dieppe, 1882,” because it reminded me of the white cliffs of Dover. When I looked on a map, I could see why. Dieppe, while not directly across from Dover, is close enough that it probably shares a geological history to its English counterpart.
Although I didn’t photograph it, Sue and I took a moment to view the famed water lilies painting and realized we’d both visited the museum in 2015 to see the special exhibit of all three paintings of the triptych on display together. (The other two panels are owned by museums in Kansas City and St.Louis, and the three panels traveled to those cities as well before the individual pieces were returned to the institutions that owned them.)
Then, ah, yes, there were the Van Goghs.
And, then there was this, which I’m sure I never saw before in my life!
Sue and I also admired this Calder, “White Loops and Red Spiral, 1959.” (There is also an Alexander Calder mobile, but I didn’t take a picture of it).
For the most part, I realized the paintings I was drawn to were by artists whose names were familiar, even if the paintings weren’t. While I’d like to think this means I have an eye for art, it’s more likely I have an eye for styles I recognize.
Below is an example of this, painted by Andrew Wyeth, it’s called “End of Olsons,” painted in 1969 as the final work produced at the “rustic Maine home” of a family he befriended.
It was good to see some female artists represented!
After all the paintings, it was time to visit some old friends, so we headed to the two small niches containing the Tiffany glass and the Faberge items.
Below are two views of the same Tiffany window, as well as some examples of the company’s lamps.
I didn’t take any pictures of the Faberge items because I couldn’t seem to get a good perspective, but they are decadent and bedazzling.
And we didn’t explore the other half of the museum, heading instead for lunch in the little onsite cafeteria, although I did pop into the Eastern art area to take a photo of this glorious prayer niche.
I also took a picture of this, which I think is just a vent or access door to the heating systems or something. They’re all over the building, but I thought it was wonderful that something functional could also be made so beautiful.
Finally, on the way home, I caught this image of one of the wonderful arched bridges on Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard.
My route to the museum takes this route, which is through the Cleveland Cultural Gardens, another Cleveland treasure. These gardens are designed and cultivated by 33 different cultural or nationality groups along Martin Luther King, Jr. and East Boulevards in Rockefeller Park. The gardens were mostly vandalized and ruined when I first began visiting the museum, but in recent times, they have been cleaned up (and also, I think, extended). You can read more about them here.
Thanks for allowing me to share one of the reasons I love where I live.
And I had ginger in the freezer, plenty of sugar, and some pectin, so things went pear shaped today.
I also made a first attempt at creamed honey, but we won’t know how that works out for a week or two. Of course, I’m not sure you can actually ruin honey, short of cutting it with corn syrup as I’ve heard they do with some imported honey. So, if worse comes to worse, I’ll use it in my tea.
The pear jam is delicious though, if I do say so myself. 😊
This is not a great photo, and I’ve been lazy about blogging, but here’s a picture of our snow-drenched yard to tide you over until I feel inspired again. And, yes, I use the word “drenched” intentionally because it is a very wet, slushy snow that will melt quickly because I hear it will be 60F again on Wednesday.
Still, winter is definitely coming despite our having a warm fall full of halcyon days and beautiful colors.