Seeking Shelter
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Cynthia Ehrenkrantz was six in 1939 when Britain entered World
War II. She was twelve in 1945 when the war ended. Seeking
Shelter is her vivid child's-eye account of life in wartime England
as she lived it: an adored only child in a large Jewish clan whose
comfortable existence becomes one of food shortages, gas masks
and air-raid sirens, and - worst of all - being sent away for months and years at a stretch to escape German bombs.
Contending with bullies, rushing from a warm bed to a backyard
shelter when sirens wail. Life is hard but also good: shining in a school play, collecting foil for the war effort, celebrating Passover... These are the mixed realities of wartime that mark young Cynthia forever in
ways only adult Cynthia can understand.



Publié par
Date de parution 30 juin 2022
Nombre de lectures 0
EAN13 9781456639143
Langue English
Poids de l'ouvrage 75 Mo

Informations légales : prix de location à la page 0,0500€. Cette information est donnée uniquement à titre indicatif conformément à la législation en vigueur.


Praise for Seeking Shelter
This beautifully written memoir is rich in particulars from the author’s girlhood in wartime Britain, giving us not just the sound of rockets and air raid sirens, the sight of bombed-out buildings, but also the smells and tastes of ration-era recipes, instructions for constructing and sleeping in home-built shelters, and an unexpected use for a gas mask. The narrative is sharp-eyed and fiercely honest, funny and heartbreaking, full of complex individuals responding to the hardships and dangers and occasional pleasures of civilian life in time of war, a life further complicated for the author and her family by intergenerational conflicts, class prejudice, and antisemitism. Seeking Shelter is an education and a delight.
—Lon Otto , author of The Flower Trade and A Man in Trouble: Stories
One expects a memoir of a childhood in wartime Britain to be told from the perspective of an adult looking back, reflecting, analyzing, and drawing parallels to our own era. Instead, Cynthia Ehrenkrantz writes as the child she was in those years – astute, aware, curious, precociously literate, always eavesdropping on adults, constantly processing what goes on around her. In Seeking Shelter , she deftly weaves two tales together: an invaluable account of the realities of World War II as British civilians lived it every day, and the personal story of a British-Jewish family struggling to survive while worrying over the fate of relatives in Europe whose voices have gone ominously dark. Her recall is astounding, and her skill at telling her story from the perspective of a child transitioning to preadolescence takes readers on a fascinating journey of maturation.
—Rabbi Lester Bronstein, Bet Am Shalom Synagogue, White Plains, NY
Seeking Shelter transported me to a time and place I’d learned about as history: Britain during WWII. In her new memoir, Cynthia Ehrenkrantz brings that history to life through the experiences of a Jewish child growing up in wartime England. Writing in vivid and intimate detail, she allows us to see what she saw, feel what she felt and share her thoughts, hopes and dreams. We learn that while her world was often confusing, lonely and scary, it was also filled with warmth and small pleasures, childhood adventures and colorful people. This book was a joy to read and is a must-read for anyone interested in understanding the personal side of historical events.
—Karen Gershowitz , author of  Travel Mania: Stories of Wanderlust
Seeking Shelter
Memoir of a Jewish Girlhood in Wartime Britain
Cynthia Ehrenkrantz
Copyright 2022, Cynthia Ehrenkrantz
All rights reserved.
Library of Congress Control Number (in progress)
Cover design: JT Lindroos
Formatted, Converted, and Distributed by
ISBN-13: 978-1-4566-3912-9 (paperback)
ISBN-13: 978-1-4566-3914-3 (ebook)
No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means including information storage and retrieval systems, without permission in writing from the author. The only exception is by a reviewer, who may quote short excerpts in a review.
To Ruth, Dan and Jonathan
When I lie where shades of darkness
Shall no more assail mine eyes ,
Nor the rain make lamentation
When the wind sighs;
How will fare the world whose wonder
Was the very proof of me?
Memory fades, must the remembered
Perishing be?
—Walter de la Mare , “Fare Well”
War is very cruel. It goes on for so long.
—Winston Churchill
Author’s Note
I never meant to write a memoir about growing up in Britain during World War II, but Seeking Shelter grew into one whether I intended it or not.
Many years ago, I decided to record my early memories in order to leave these stories for my children. I sensed that, if I didn’t, a time might come when they would regret not asking me about my history, just as I have come to regret not learning more about my own parents’ early years.
The events recorded here are as I remember them, with facts, dates and places verified where possible. Another person living through the same experiences might recall them differently. All memory is subjective. I can only say I have tried to make this account of my own experiences accurate and truthful.
Names of family members, friends, teachers and other people mentioned in this memoir are mostly real. A few names have been changed intentionally or approximate names I can’t recall.
With one exception (Lord Woolton Pie), the recipes are also drawn from memory. I include them to give readers a sense of how families ate during wartime and encourage anyone interested in trying them to look for variations online.
Author’s Note
Prologue: Tilly and Max
Chapter 1 Praying for Curls
Chapter 2 Bubbe’s House
Chapter 3 Sewing Circle
Chapter 4 Preparing for War
Chapter 5 Leaving Home
Chapter 6 Merthyr Tydfil
Chapter 7 New Gel
Chapter 8 Chicken Farming
Chapter 9 An Uninvited Guest
Chapter 10 The First Air Raid
Chapter 11 The Blitz Begins
Family Photos
Chapter 12 A New Normal
Chapter 13 Misfits
Chapter 14 Country Life
Chapter 15 Playmates
Chapter 16 Austerity
Chapter 17 Pets
War Photos
Chapter 18 Passover
Chapter 19 Homecoming
Chapter 20 Croydon High
Chapter 21 The Kitchen Front
Chapter 22 Doodlebugs
Chapter 23 Return to Wales
Chapter 24 Summer Vacation
Chapter 25 Dancing in the Street
Chapter 26 New Beginnings
Epilogue Child of War
About the Author
Prologue: Tilly and Max
The postcard read :
Dear Tilly,
Please come to tea on Sunday, July 12th at 4:00 o’clock. My cousin Max Shelower is going to be here, and I’d like you to meet him.
Kind regards,
No doubt her mother had been complaining to cousin Malka again, Tilly thought : “Find someone for my Tilly. She’s twenty-five already.”
Tilly had no intention of remaining single , but so far hadn’t found anyone she could consider marrying. She’d dated Jack Friedberg for almost a year. He was blond, nice looking and a good dancer. They’d even won a Charleston contest. But when he proposed, she turned him down. He was so dull. A tailor like her father and brothers, his conversation was mundane, his accent low class. She couldn’t imagine settling down with him.
Tilly’s mother, Rivke, berated her. “He’s steady. A good provider. You’re too fussy. You’ll be left on the shelf like your sisters.”
Tilly was one of five full siblings, the children of her father Shlomo Fox’s third marriage. His first two wives had died in childbirth after bearing three sons and a daughter between them—Tilly’s older half-sibilings Hersch Meyer, Victor, Shmuel and Betsy . Her half-siblings were all married but she and her full siblings—her sisters Milly, Rose and Fan and her brother, Goody—were still single and living at home in North London, much to their widowed mother’s disappointment.
Like his three half-brothers, Goody owned a successful tailoring and furrier store. Rose worked with Goody. She was shy, never knowing what to say to men, always looking down at her hands in her lap and blushing. Fan, a dressmaker, had had a boyfriend, but he’d gone to Argentina five years before to seek his fortune, promising to send for her when he’d saved enough money. At first, he’d written weekly, then once a month. After three years, his letters stopped and Fan lost hope. Milly, the youngest sister, was a hairdresser and was considered “fast.” She was still “playing the field” and had many boyfriends. Tilly was a milliner and talented amateur actress. She planned to marry eventually but not until she found the right man.
Tilly got off the bus when it reached Stamford Hill, and walked up Olinda Road past identical Victorian row houses to number 68. It was a sunny day in July 1931 and she was wearing a dusty-pink dress falling just below her knees, the belt fastener made of two silver pelicans with interlocking beaks. She’d made the cloche hat herself to match the dress perfectly, staying after her shift in the millinery workshop, stretching and steaming the felt on a wooden mold so it fit just right. She knew she looked chic.
Malka greeted her with a swift kiss on the cheek and ushered her into the dining room. The table was overflowing with teatime delicacies: smoked salmon, pickled and chopped herring, crisp celery sticks, pickled cabbage, caraway-seeded rye bread, sweet butter and a big wedge of cheddar cheese.
As Tilly entered, a young man unfolded his lanky frame from a chair, and when he stood she saw he was quite a bit taller than she was. A plus, she thought. At five foot eight, she was often introduced to young men who were shorter; many tended to plumpness, which she found most unattractive. Max was tall and slim with broad shoulders, and his horn-rimmed glasses gave him a studious air. When he offered his hand, she noticed how the corners of his eyes crinkled when he smiled. His voice when he introduced himself was a deep, resonant bass. He was dressed in the latest fashion: Oxford bags—baggy trousers with legs so wide they looked almost like two long skirts.
“Max has come up from Wales on a buying trip,” Malka said.
“I do the purchasing for my father’s wallpaper shop,” Max explained in a strong Welsh accent. The shop, named Papertones , was in Merthyr Tydfil, a Welsh market town. “I come up to London about every six weeks,” he added. Tilly noticed he had a slight lisp. A pity, she thought, because he seemed interesting.
Later, when he walked her to the bus stop, he asked, “Do you like classical music?”
“Why, yes. I’ve been to the opera and loved it,” she said.
“There’s a piano recital at t

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