Hidden in a carved out hole in the basement of her uncle’s block of flats, Miriam Freedman together with her mother and sister lay incarcerated, unable to talk, sneeze or even clear her throat, unable to move as she was too frightened that any sound would lead to their discovery, writes Fiona Leckerman.
This basement, in these flats, in Czechoslovakia is how Freedman survived the Holocaust and where she begins her story in her book and autobiography, Love is Always the Answer.
Unlike other Holocaust memoirs, Freedman’s follows a different narrative.
Not only does she retell the horrors of her time concealed in her uncle’s flat – which she does in painful, heart-rending detail – but she also tells of a life after the Holocaust, of what is left for a person who has lost so much.
She says of writing the book: “I have always felt that I had something to offer.”
Freedman, who moved to Israel after the war, where she learnt Hebrew, says: “My mother was very reserved being brought up in Austria and at the time she had no choice but to push me to boarding school.”
From there she went to study at Jerusalem University, eventually taking a post as the first Israeli representative in Ireland, where she met her actor husband, Lennie, and subsequently moved to the UK. “I had to explore the world,” she says. “I was protected by God – how could I have survived if I wasn’t?”
There is a recurrent theme of movement in the book, from the child unable to move in hiding, where her legs felt crippled with lack of circulation, to a world traveller and yoga enthusiast.
It was her love of yoga, people, philosophy and exercise that led her to meet her spiritual teacher.
In the book, her meeting with Irina Tweedie is life-changing. Describing the impact, she says: “I have never met anyone as beautiful and charismatic as Mrs Tweedie.” The book chronicles her journey to spirituality and even includes dream analysis.
She explains: “I am dwelling on my personal journey. I’m not following every rule. I like to help people of all religions, of all creeds. I am serving who need to be served.”
Although she will not disclose her age because she feels it’s an obstacle when fitting in with young people, she still runs regular meditation groups.
The book is a compelling read that tells the extraordinary story of the hidden child who has spent her adult life searching for peace and understanding.
• Love is Always the Answer by Miriam Freedman, is published by Blue Dolphin Publishing. www.bluedolphinpublishing.com