Nonna Bannister was born to wealthy parents in the Ukraine during Stalin’s Soviet Union. She kept her diaries sewn into the hems of her clothing and in a pillow her grandmother gave to her (Nonna was later buried with it in America). She was a holocaust survivor saved only by the mercy of God.
This book is a collection of stories compiled by her husband and children. Parts of the entries have notes from the editors to clarify some of Nonna’s thoughts. Nonna transcribed these in her later years from her original diaries written during the Holocaust. Her husband and children did not know of the atrocities Nonna suffered in the Ukraine and in Hitler’s Germany until a year before her death. Nonna was the only surviving member of her entire family before meeting her husband in America in the 50s and having a new family.
“As I reflect on my mother’s life, many things are revealed to me that make sense now that she has passed on. Momma’s attitude about life, especially challenges that she faced, was almost always positive. She had a very strong will to fight difficulties, a strong will to maintain her dignity, and a strong will to survive and move on. Reflecting on the kind of person she was makes it much clearer that her past had an indellible effect on what she would become…Why she was always such a realist regarding life and at the same time so compassionate toward others.” – John Bannister
There are many warnings for America in this diary. If we do not learn from the past, we will repeat it in our country. What makes this different from books such as The Unknown Black Book are the happy memories she records. In such terrible circumstances one would not expect to see joy, and yet her belief in God kept her strong and she recorded the moments of joy and God’s mercy, not forgetting them in her misery. Many times we can see God at work in our lives if we just open our eyes, and in the case of Nonna Bannister, she would not have survived the war had not the Allies bombed the Gestapo the day the Gestapo ordered her to come in for questioning and had the nuns not kept her hidden under an assumed name.
The notes in the end written by her family show how Nonna’s past did not hinder her from moving forward and applying the lessons she learned to the people she met everyday.
I rated this book five stars.