A Mother's Courage

Malka Levine

23 May 2024
256 pages


'A deeply humane memoir of immense power - there is nothing more affecting than a first-hand experience finely told' - Philippe Sands, author of The Ratline

'A fabulous memoir . . . a testament to [Malka's] skill and determination' - Dame Maureen Lipman

A Mother’s Courage is Holocaust survivor Malka Levine’s powerful and moving tribute to a determined and resourceful woman who refused to give up hope so long as her children needed her.

Malka was two when the Nazi invaders forced her family into the Jewish ghetto in Volodymyr-Volynskyi, a small city in present-day Ukraine. It was the first step in a campaign of mass murder. Of the 25,000 Jews in the city in 1939, only thirty would survive. Malka’s father was shot in the first pogrom. Before he died he begged her mother Rivka to save their children.

Rivka kept Malka and her two older brothers alive through eighteen terrifying months, as the Nazis systematically killed the inhabitants of the ghetto. In the midst of the inhumanity, a few people risked their lives to help. A Wehrmacht officer saved them from being shot and a Polish dressmaker gave them sanctuary when the SS went hunting for victims.

Then Rivka persuaded a Ukrainian farmer and his saintly wife to hide her and the children. The Yakimchuks agreed and kept their word, even after the SS commandeered the farm. They dug a pit under their barn, and there Malka’s family stayed through a freezing winter and into the summer until the Red Army came. At the end of the war, Rivka was forced to draw on her strength yet again as she set out to create a new life for herself and her children.

A Mother’s Courage is Malka’s chance at long last to thank not only her brave mum, but also all the heroes who opened their hearts to her and her family.

A deeply humane memoir of immense power – there is nothing more affecting than a first hand experience finely told
Malka’s survival story may be one of many but it is unique in the telling. To be hidden, by a gentile family who barely knew them, at huge risk to themselves, in a pit of soil and gravel, frozen by devastating Ukranian/Polish winters, fed, like animals on scraps of bread and a few potatoes and desperately sustained by a grieving mother on frozen snow to drink and concocted family stories to keep their minds alive, is the stuff of great drama and often, in the manner of Jewish humour, wry comedy . . . a fabulous memoir
When you read Malka’s story you cannot help experiencing rage at how low human beings can stoop and, at the same time, endless admiration for the best of humanity shown by Malka’s utterly courageous mother and the Ukrainian Mrs Yakimchuk who risked everything to shelter Malka’s family . . . a deeply poignant memoir