“I lay on the wet sand, frozen, injured and breathless.
My eyes were wide, searching.
Everyone around me was fearful and dishevelled. Some of them stepped over me.
Someone wrapped me in a blanket and I was carried to a nearby lorry loaded with shouting, groaning people. The lorry drove on. Where? And where is my baby? Gidi, my Gidileh, where are you?”
“Where Are You My Child?” is a deeply moving true story which takes place against the backdrop of World War II and the British Mandate in Palestine. It is told from the perspective of Roni, an Israeli schoolgirl, who pieces together the dramatic immigration story of her great-grandparents’ (Moshe and Shoshanna) for her ‘roots’ assignment at school.
She learns of their last-minute escape from Czechoslovakia when it was already under Nazi occupation. How, with their three-week-old infant, they were crammed into a rickety old boat named the Atlantic, carrying 1800 Jewish refugees. Sailing from Romania, they made a perilous journey, with much suffering, to their ancient homeland. On 1 November 1940 their limping ship was towed into Haifa harbour by the British Navy, and they were devastated to learn that they would not be allowed to land. The British had plans to deport them to a detention camp on the island of Mauritius on a large ship called SS Patria. A few moments after Shoshanna and her baby were transferred to SS Patria a deafening explosion cracked the hull of the ship and it keeled over and sank…
As part of her research Roni listens to cassette recordings made by Moshe and Shoshanna, who describe the horrors of anti-semitism, the great suffering of the so-called ‘illegal immigrants’, the internment camps and the separation of family members, but also the Zionist hope “to be a free people in our own Land”.