Almost Home

Almost Home

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Date Added: Wednesday 18 November, 2015

by Michael Allen

I am much in favour of autobiographies. In the first place, some (if not all) of one’s descendants are going to be fascinated by an account of Uncle George’s or Auntie Freda’s life. But more importantly, perhaps, a first-hand account of what it was like to live through a period of great unrest is always invaluable to historians.

‘Almost Home’ is the second volume of autobiography to have been published by Mira Crouch. The first, entitled ‘War Fare’ appeared in 2008. It covered the years 1941-45, when Mira (born 1932) was growing up in Belgrade.

‘Almost Home’ is subtitled ‘a memoir of migration’. And the word migration can, I think, be interpreted both literally and metaphorically. This book tells the story of how Mira travelled, in due course, from central Europe to Australia, where she eventually began to feel that she had found her true home. It also tells the story of one person’s journey from being a child to becoming a woman, a mother, and a grandparent.

The structure of the book is not so much chronological as thematic: it is a consideration of certain themes from a lifetime’s perspective.

One such theme is the stressful experience of being a migrant – and what could currently be more relevant? Mira Crouch knows very well what it is like to be unsure of where one will eventually find a home; and to be ever conscious of the need to have the ‘right papers’. As the daughter of a Jewish man who was taken away from a hospital and gassed to death in a van, she could hardly expect to feel truly secure until many years had passed: if ever.

Another recurring theme in this book is coping with illness, both physical and mental. In 1976, when Mira was appointed to the staff of the University of NSW, and felt that her second life had finally begun, she was diagnosed with breast cancer. And at various times she also suffered from agoraphobia and post-natal depression. The latter, and possibly both, can reasonably be viewed as war wounds.

Finally, of course, Mira has lived through a period of time in which the role of women in society has been constantly under debate and has undergone major changes.

What we have here is a self-portrait of a woman who is talented, versatile, and hard-working – but damaged by war. As such it is not a book for every reader, but it is one that will be appreciated by those, particularly women, who have a European background and are old enough to have some memories of World War II and its aftermath. It is a book about survival, and about finding, at last, a true home.

Rating: 5 of 5 Stars! [5 of 5 Stars!]

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