Local author relives her mom’s journey to freedom in “Mirel’s Daughter”

by Mary Alan Woodward, The Voice Tribune

Kay Gill, a native of Muncie, Ind., who now lives in Pewee Valley, has given a clear, well-written account of her mother’s harrowing trek from terror to freedom in the just-published “Mirel’s Daughter” (Fleur-de-Lis Press).

Her mother, born Sonia Turbowskia in the Ukrainian village of Brusilov, was barely 10 years old in 1919, when civil war pitted Ukrainian Nationalists, Bolsheviks and Tsarists against each other.

Caught in the middle of that post-Russian Revolution conflict were Ukraine’s Jews, who have been falsely blamed for the region’s problems for centuries.

Gill heard her mother’s account of those terrible years in small amounts during her own childhood, adolescence and adulthood – the pleasant child-appropriate memories at first, and the traumatic ones when she was old enough to understand them.

In “Mirel’s Daughter,” she traces her mother’s trek from Brusilov to Muncie by beginning with a murderous attack on the family. Realizing that the vicious pogroms will only bring more disaster. Sonia, her sister (Raizel) and their mother (Mirel) escape into the countryside.

One by one, the trio becomes separated, and young Sonia must find her way to the home of relatives in Kiev by herself. Although Gill flavors Sonia’s story with details about Jewish culture, her mother’s fight to survive the turmoil around her mirrors that of refugees from other countries, and will touch anyone’s heart.

By the time Sonia manages to set sail for America in 1922 (speaking only enough English to say “Hello, my name is Sonia”), she is eager to begin a new life in Chicago, and later, Indiana.