Winnipeg Jewish Review  
Site Search:
Home  |  Archives  |  Contact Us
 
Features Local Israel Next Generation Arts/Op-Eds Editorial/Letters Links Obituary/In Memoriam


 
THE READHEAD: TREGEBOV'S FICTION A LESSON IN HISTORY

By Sharon Chisvin, July 6, 2010

Among the many stories I have heard about my family ancestry, one in particular that has intrigued me is the story about my paternal great grandfather’s brother and sister who left Canada to return to Russia after the revolution. The truth is that it is not much of a story, because once they went back, they were never heard from again.

Now at least, thanks to Rhea Tregebov’s novel The Knife Sharpener’s Bell, I can at least imagine what they may have encountered upon their return to their homeland and what likely happened to them under Stalin and under the Nazi occupation.

Tregebov is a Winnipeg raised poet, children’s author and editor who now lives and teaches in Vancouver. Her debut novel, published by Coteau Books, unfolds in Winnipeg, Moscow and Odessa. Her protagonist and narrator is Annette Gershon, an older woman who, in packing up her house in order to move to an apartment, begins to reflect on her life experiences, her loves and her losses. 

Annette’s parents, Avram and Anne, like hundreds of thousands of other Russian Jews, had immigrated to North America in the early part of the 20th century to escape poverty and persecution. Settling in Winnipeg, Canada, they manage to eke out a living in their Main Street delicatessen, but following the success of the Russian Revolution, began to dream of a return home. Invigorated by their idealism, and weary of watching as the Depression steals their neighbours and friends of their livelihoods and dignity, they decide it is time to act, to go back in order ‘to  help give birth to some sort of a better world.”

The going back, of course, turns out not to be quite what they imagined, and is particularly difficult for 10-year-old Annette. Still Avram and Anne persevere, refusing to dwell on the negative and determined to find a place for themselves and their family in a system that promises equality for all, even for Jews. “It wasn’t just that they had laws against anti-Semitism,” Avram had promised his family, “it was that the laws were being enforced.”

By the end of the Second World War, the life of the Gershon family has changed dramatically. At this point, Annette, now a young adult, is given the choice of returning to Winnipeg or remaining in Moscow. She chooses the latter, still hesitant, in spite of all that has transpired, not to betray her parents’ decision “to believe in the workers’ paradise.” Although this choice in the end costs her dearly, it also brings her unfathomable rewards.

The Knife Sharpener’s Bell is a sharply conceived, beautifully written story about the forces of history, the passion of ideology and the inescapable tug of memory. For me, it is as well, a cherished glimpse into a lost part of my family’s history.

.

 
<<Previous Article       Next Article >>
Subscribe to the Winnipeg Jewish Review
  • Rady JCC Career Ad
  • Fillmore Riley
  • Johnees
  • sandstone gift essentials
  • Bernstein's Deli
  • Saper Agencies
  • Breeze Designs
  • Pharmasave
  • Tradesman Mechanical
  • KC Enterrprises
  • Joyce Rykiss
  • Shirley and Bob Freedman
  • Esther and Sid Halpern
  • Stephen N. Rosenfield
  • Kromar Printing
  • Winter's Collision Repair
  • JCFS
  • GTP
  • Allan Davies
  • Mobile Denture Services
  • John Russell Honey
  • Glendale Golf & Country Club
  • Sobey's
  • Ann's Flowers
  • Jim Muir
  • casa bianca
  • Horizon Storage
  • John Bucklaschuk
  • Tyler Bucklaschuk
  • Sveinson Construction
  • The Home Store
  • Stringer Rentals
  • Eddie's Gravel Supply Ltd.
  • JLS Construction
  • Gulay Plumbing
  • Blue Rooster
  • Country Boy Restaurant
  • Hugh's Electric
  • Bulrushes Gallery
  • Jewish Foundation of Manitoba
  • Winnipeg Drapery
  • Gimli Snowmobile Centre
  • Rosemary Miguez
  • Joanne Gullachsen
  • Glenda Knoll
  • Ingrid Bennett
  • Rady JCC
  • Chochy's
  • Stoller Family
  • Jim Gauthier
  • Canadian Magen David Adom
  • D'Arcy & Deacon
  • Beyond Flowers
  • Sorrento's
  • Meyer Rypp
  • Thorvaldson Care Center
  • Jon's Autoservice
  • John Wishnowski
  • Imperial Soal
  • Western Scrap Metals Inc.
  • Shoppers Drug Mart
  • Gary Levine Ortho
  • Orthodox Union
  • Fetching Style
  • Astroid Management
  • Munroe Pharmacy
  • Hill Sokalski Walsh Olson
  • TD Bank
  • Myrna Driedger
  • John Orlikow
  • Ross Eadie
  • Cavalier Candies
  • City Sheet Metal
  • Total Lighting Sales
  • Broadway Law Group
  • Piston Ring
  • Pitblado
  • Ambassador Mechanical L.P.
  • Holiday Inn
  • Peerless Garments
  • Bridges for Peace
  • Sarel Canada
  • Ronald B. Zimmerman
  • Rosemarie Peart
  • Nikos
  • Accurate Lawn
  • Wallace & Wallace
  • Paradise Restaurant
  • http://foi.org/events
  • Whytewold Emporium
  • MJM Foundations & Construction
  • Brennivins Pizza Hus
  • Island Imports
  • Keepin' It Clean
  • Santa Lucia Pizza
  • Bare Body Sugaring
  • Roofco Winnipeg Roofing
  • Center for Near East Policy Research
  • MidWest Professional Carpet & Upholstery Cleaning
  • MDR Investments
  • Eston Industries
  • McNeill Media
  • Esthetics by Irena
  • Nachum Bedein
Rhonda Spivak, Editor

Publisher: Spivak's Jewish Review Ltd.


Opinions expressed in letters to the editor or articles by contributing writers are not necessarily endorsed by Winnipeg Jewish Review.