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The Children of Willesden Lane: Beyond the Kindertransport    by Mona Golabek & Lee Cohen order for
Children of Willesden Lane
by Mona Golabek
Order:  USA  Can
Warner, 2003 (2002)
Hardcover, Softcover

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* *   Reviewed by J. A. Kaszuba Locke

Mona Golabek tells her mother's life story in this loving memoir, which begins in Vienna and continues in London through the end of World War II, with a subsequent immigration to America. The story of child prodigy concert pianist Lisa Jura is one of courage and survival, faith and friendship, and the power of music.

With threats of German troops entering pre-war Vienna, the Jura parents were compelled to make a difficult decision - which of their two youngest daughters Sonia (12) or Lisa (14) would be sent to England? Lisa Jura traveled in the one remaining seat aboard the Kindertransport, a program for refugees sponsored by a beacon of hope, England's Bloomsbury House. Upon her arrival in England, Lisa's relatives were unable to have her in their one-room home. Lisa was first employed, and housed, as a maid to an affluent family. After six months of mounting loneliness, she traveled by bicycle and train to London. Lisa found her way to the Bloomsbury House office and pleaded to reside in London. She stayed at 243 Willesden Lane (a hostel for refugees) and worked in a garment factory. She resolved to earn enough to bring her younger sister to England, and her new friends fervently assisted in the search of a sponsor for Sonia.

At Willesden Lane, Lisa found a surrogate family through friends and mothers, Mrs. McCrae and Mrs. Cohen. There was also a piano in the home. With a troubled heart, Lisa learned about her housemates and what they left behind - they formed lasting bonds. Gaining daily access to the residence's piano and encouraged by those around her, Lisa spent disciplined hours practicing. At times of German air raids, Lisa continued to play through the bombings as an offering of moral support to friends and neighbors. Lisa kept in mind her mother's departing words, 'You must promise me ... that you will hold on to your music ... your music will help you through -- let it be your friend, Liseleh.' Lisa was constantly haunted by concern for her parents in Vienna, never giving up hope that she and her family would one day be reunited.

With the assistance of her 'Willesden Lane family', Lisa earned an audition, then a scholarship, to The London Royal Academy. Lisa's debut was held at Wigmore Hall to an appreciative, tearful audience. The moment she had dreamed of was now a reality. As a crowd, including Willesden's children, enter Lisa's dressing room after the concert, Mrs. Cohen realized, 'When did this happen? You are no longer children!' Lisa Jaru replies 'We will always be children of Willesden Lane.' Golabek and Cohen beautifully capture Lisa Jura's passion for music. The Children of Willesden Lane is a heart-wrenching story of pain, suffering, love and joy. Mona Golabek dedicates her inspiring tribute 'To my beloved mother, Lisa. The music of your soul is eternal.'

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