When Grownups Play at War: A Child's Memoir


154 pages
ISBN 1-894549-43-0
DDC 940.53'18'092





Translated by Sarah Cummins
Reviewed by Ian A. Andrews

Ian A. Andrews is editor of the New Brunswick Teachers’ Association’s Focus and co-author of Becoming a Teacher.


The author was nine years old when the Nazis invaded Poland in 1939.
From her home in Miedzeszyn, east of Warsaw, Ilona Flutsztejn-Gruda and
her secular Jewish family fled to Wilno (later Vilnius), Lithuania, to
escape the German occupation. When Grownups Play at War is her detailed
and vivid recollection of a childhood spent trying to survive.

Lithuania was not devoid of racism. It was annexed by Russia in 1940,
and when Germany invaded Russia in June 1941, Ilona and her family
migrated further east to Uzbekistan, where they moved from Tashkent to
Zarkent to Czartak to Namangon—experiencing only subsistence living.
Although picking cotton and especially raising pigs were often
considered demeaning for a Jewish family, unusual times called for
unusual measures. During her childhood Ilona was able to form a few
fleeting friendships and learned several languages in the process.

Although they were not forced into the ghettos or concentration camps
associated with the Holocaust, Ilona and her family were forced to live
on a day-to-day basis. Following the war, she returned to Poland, where
she studied for a doctorate at the University of Warsaw. After marrying,
Ilona and her family moved to Canada in 1968, where she established a
career as a professor of chemistry at the University of Quebec.

This easy-to-read autobiography for middle-school students provides yet
another reminder of the struggles that Jewish children have faced over
the years, and the ways in which adversity can sometimes be overcome.
Highly recommended.


Flutsztejn-Gruda, Ilona., “When Grownups Play at War: A Child's Memoir,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed April 18, 2024, https://cbra.library.utoronto.ca/items/show/23167.