As a young woman in 1920s Europe, Olga Berenstein – my father’s aunt and, later, my Grandma Ola – left Poland alone to attend university in Liege, Belgium. During her college years, she travelled to Paris alone to attend the Sorbonne for a period of time, intending to study medicine, before going by herself to Berlin to visit a good friend. Here was a young, single woman traipsing alone throughout Europe, learning different languages and defying societal expectations along the way.
This same woman subsequently survived the lethal conditions of the Kovno ghetto and the even more fatal environment of a German concentration camp during the Holocaust. Afterwards, Olga went back to Poland to see if any members of her family had survived and found my dad who had been hiding on a farm in the countryside. She eventually took her orphaned nephew to this country where she had to learn yet another language and culture.
Suffice to say, Olga was a woman of tremendous intelligence and independence, which inherently necessitated a degree of courage. The many priceless life lessons my dad has imparted to me began with Grandma Ola. The kind of son and father I became – and continue to become – began with her. Indeed, I am the man that I am because she was the woman that she was. I am forever duty-bound, imbued with love, admiration and gratitude, to ensure my own sons understand this and, hopefully, this history will repeat itself.
Genre: Historical Fiction
Publisher: Outskirts Press
Release Date: May 2016
The Conversations We Never Had, by Jeffrey H. Konis, is a historical fiction novel / memoir that highlights the importance of family history.
When Jeffrey's grandma died, he was left with a sense of guilt and profound regret for not having gotten to know her better.
“My father remembers nothing about his real parents. They were dead by the time he was nine. Olga, his mother's younger sister, not only survived the Holocaust, but was able to find my father at his hiding place – a farm in Poland – and later brought him to America to raise as her own. In all that time, he never asked her any questions about his parents,” says Jeffrey. “I lived with Olga for over two years and she would have been able and willing to tell me about my real grandparents, my dad as a little boy and so much more had I simply asked the questions. I never did. Olga has been gone for more than twenty years, along with everything she could have told me. I wish I could go back and have a second chance to get to know her better and learn more about my family from the only person in the world who knew them and remembered them.”
The Conversations We Never Had is a chronicle of Jeffrey's time spent with his Grandma "Ola" and an imagining of the stories she might have shared had he only took the time to ask the questions. It is a heartwarming story that will leave you eager to spend time with your family and learn more about them before it’s too late.
“Jeffrey H. Konis won my heart from the very first page and had my eyes glued to the pages throughout the entire narrative…The Conversations We Never Had is a book that will warm your heart and lead you toward the pursuit of love and gratitude for those who are part of your journey to yourself. Beautiful and inspiring, this book is highly recommended!” – 5 Stars, Romuald Dzemo for Readers Favorite
About the Author:
After practicing law for many years, Jeffrey H. Konis left the profession to embark on a career as a high school social studies teacher. His first book, From Courtroom to Classroom: Making a Case for Good Teaching, offers a unique perspective for teachers who seek to inspire their students to learn for the sake of learning.
His latest work, The Conversations We Never Had, was released in May 2016.
Jeffrey loves reading, collecting fine art photography, soccer – especially Liverpool F.C. – travel, and his family most of all. He currently resides in Goshen, New York with his wife, Pamela, and sons, Alexander and Marc.