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Vera Wasowski is 80 years old, her humour is irreverent, and her love of life infectious. Together with Robert Hillman, she has written a compelling memoir of a full and eventful life in wartime Poland and post-war Australia. As a young child in the Lvov ghetto in Poland, Vera witnesses her father’s suicide and her mother’s desperate measures to ensure their survival. As a university student in Warsaw, she throws herself into journalism and a Bohemian lifestyle, until anti-Semitism forces her migration to a 1950s Australia of terylene dresses, plastic-covered sofas and factory work. When, finally, she manages to find work as a researcher with the ABC, her world fills with a glitterati of some of Australia’s best-known public personalities.
Vera: My Story perfectly captures the energy and vivacity of a fascinating woman who has lived through both great adventure and great tragedy. So evocative is the writing that the reader can almost smell the cigarettes she smokes at her local cafe, hear the disapproval of the well-heeled customers around her, feel her fear as a child confronted with the horrors of war and be with her as she entertains the powerful and the urbane in a new country she learns to call her own. Wasowski and Hillman’s particular skill lies in their ability to sensitively deal with stories of great hardship within a narrative that is at once droll, biting, informative and intriguing.