There are not many topics that are so often related to in modern-day Jewish literature as the Holocaust. ‘We Share the Same Sky’ is another to this growing pool of publications. However, Rachael Cerrotti’s work is much more than just a memoir or biography: it’s a story of transgenerational consequences of war and interfamily ties that continue to live many years after the initial bonds were established. The work is based on a podcast series Cerrotti previously did in collaboration with the USC Shoah Foundation.
‘We Share the Same Sky’ is both Cerrotti’s story of retracing and describing her grandmother’s life based on diary entries, personal memories and recollections of others, as well as her own memoir of life and loss. The book goes back and forth through time to relate to grandmother ‘Hana’ as a young Jewish woman in war-torn Europe: a refugee, stateless, and migrant who flees for the Nazi’s from Poland to Denmark. The pain and simultaneous also the luck which brought Hana to her personal safe haven, where she was accepted into different families as one of them. Struggling to balance daily life with the unimaginable losses that she faced much too young.
Cerrotti, a photojournalist based in Boston, spent many years tracing the enthralling life story in what feels like a coping method to remain closely tied after her grandmother passes away. Cerrotti’s path takes her through different European countries, meeting various people who knew her grandmother and visiting places that hold an important place in Hana’s history. The search spreads out through many phases of her life: single, engaged, married and ultimately – tragically – widowed. By interweaving
both stories, Cerrotti lifts the book past the point of being another Holocaust memoir and turns it into a gripping tale of remembrance, sorrow and love.
The book – though not necessarily groundbreaking – is a highly gripping personal tale in which life is both celebrated and mourned. Cerrotti has a very pleasant storytelling voice, yet I wish I had read the hardcopy version of the book so I would have been able to gather some of the beautiful – often poetic – quotes that are provided by Cerrotti and grandmother Hana.
Cerrotti is an artist with words and the synthesis of the two stories of the young women – Hana and Rachael – leaves the reader both emotionally touched and overflowing with love for life. It’s an extraordinary personal debut.
‘We Share the Same Sky’ by Rachael Cerrotti. Blackstone Publishing, 2021. ISBN: 9781094153728