Agnieszka Podpora


„Who in his right mind takes a child to Auschwitz!” – the figure of a child and its function in Eleonora Lev’s novel Certain Kind of Orphanhood.    


In 1983 Eleonora Lev, an Israeli journalist born in Szczecin, embarks on a journey to Poland. During this very personal and heavily emotionally loaded endeavor she retraces her return path to the country of origins, abandoned by her at the age of seven. Her book – an eclectic, inventive and rich travelogue, comprising photos, from-the-spot accounts, excerpts of research material and reflective commentaries written from a distance – testifies to a complicated attempt at confronting a place permeated with personal memories, family narratives and the traumatic heritage of the Shoah.


Lev’s journey, aimed at rediscovering the territories of her lost childhood and undoing the title “orphanhood”, is thus forged into a multifaceted literary project that touches upon many temporary existential dilemmas, such as the identity reconfigurations, nostalgic sensitivity, trauma and its representation along with possibilities of transgression. But, what is central for the reasoning conducted in the following paper, Eleonora Lev ventures on a journey not only as a child of Polish Jews who survived the Holocaust and immigrated to Israel, or a descendant to a family of a long-established history connected with Poland – she goes there also as a mother. Her daughter, ten-year-old Effi, accompanies her on the journey. The burden of the argument in this paper is that the child’s subtle but felt presence in some of the episodes is not accidental or of secondary importance, but plays an important role in the novel’s composition.


The following paper is dedicated to the literary dimension of Eleonora Lev’s project with relation to the artistic strategies employed by a mother-writer, who includes her child into her art. The primary aim of the paper is to examine the ways in which Lev constructs and uses the child-figure in her text. Therefore, the central part of this paper comprises the analysis of three key episodes that involve Effi. It is precluded by sections briefly outlining the general context for Lev’s book, including the social and historical ramifications of the phenomenon of Israeli journeys to Poland, the emergence of the so called ‘second generation literature’ in Israel and the critical response to Lev’s book. The paper concludes with an interpretation of the episodes including Effi that is aimed at determining their significance in Lev’s psychological, existential and literary endeavor.