I am Lubo
Written by Lou Pechi
This story is not simply another holocaust survival tale, but rather a journey of one child’s struggle to discover his true identity. The story begins in June, 1938 in Zagreb with a young boy named Lubo who sketches a happy, carefree life including imitating a traffic policeman and going to the barber shop with his father, Kolega. His mother Mutika adores him; the only thorn in his side is his mean governess, “Fraulein.” Lubo’s carefree life of playing with tin soldiers, trains and cars is shattered on April 6, 1941, when he is trapped in the air raid on Belgrade while visiting his grandmother. His mother takes him on a desperate journey by rail, boat and foot in an attempt to return home, only to find Nazi soldiers in their living room upon their arrival. With a child’s simplicity, Lubo is delighted to see real soldiers carrying real guns visiting his home. Soon Lubo’s parents are required to wear badges indicating that they are Jews, and Kolega joins the army. Conditions rapidly deteriorate; Lubo’s parents decide to convert to Catholicism and flee to Italy.
Lubo embarks on a lifelong quest to find his identity. His journey will include living with aunts, uncles and cousins,staying with his mother in Italy, narrowly avoiding being sent to a concentration camp in Germany, and getting back to Yugoslavia with his father for a short time. Lubo just wants to be back living a normal child’s life with his parents, but their lives keep taking separate turns. Lubo will even find himself on a kibbutz in Israel living with other children of foreigners who also see themselves as outcasts. When Lubo is finally nearing his eighteenth birthday, he decides to join the Israeli Air Force so he can use the technical knowledge he enjoys. Again he is frustrated because he does not have a high school diploma; so he pleads with his mother, who is now living in America to send for him. Lubo finds another roadblock when he arrives in America. He will encounter new forms of discrimination and frustration in America as well. Despite all obstacles, Lubo eventually succeeds in discovering his path to success and happiness.
I am truly impressed with the honestly and sincerity of this memoir which took the author much of his life to write. He writes from the perspective of a frightened child who through no fault of his own has been placed in the path of overwhelming roadblocks to his success. The events of the holocaust are cast in historical perspective seen through the eyes of a young child who had to constantly rearrange his life to suit them. Adding to the uniqueness of the story are the personal photographs of people, places, and events that the author has managed to acquire. It is a powerful read that I think tweens and teens as well as adults will find compelling. Pechi includes an epilogue revealing what happened to each of the major characters. Another bonus feature is a list of questions that the reader should be able to answer after reading the book that will guide classroom or seminar discussion groups on the holocaust. A highly recommended read!
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