8 of 9 for the Orbis Terrarum Challenge
My second graphic novel memoir by a female in two days.
We Are On Our Own is not a completely chronological story. We see Miriam as an adult occasionally, with seemingly unimportant tasks and events reminding her about experiences in her past. The bulk of the story, however, takes place in Budapest during the last two years of World War II. She is Jewish, the single child of a deployed soldier father and a mother (Ester) at home. As the situation worsens for the Jews, Miriam flees with her mother and lives a frightful existence as her mother tries to keep her safe and keep them fed. Some people help willingly, others grudgingly - and their lives depend on their generosity.
The pencil drawings are so classy, truly artistic. The "evil" characters seem to be a bit non-distinct - just scary personages, the way a child would remember them. Certain frames are disturbing, as Miriam's mother lives through the unthinkable to protect them - and it's particularly frightening because you know Miriam is nearby, not understanding at all what is happening. My heart aches for Miriam, of course - a child whose faith slowly fades as God seems to have disappeared from the scene. But, also, as a mother - I ached for Ester. To run, terrified, from unimaginable horror and to have to put on a brave face for your small one. To let yourself be taken by the enemy, in order to buy time, and to have to pretend like everything is going to be just fine. I can't imagine the emotional burden, but Katin's drawings certainly help.
An excellent addition to the canon of Holocaust survivor stories, told with care and emotion. Highly recommended.