Friday, May 08, 2009

The Secret Holocaust Diaries of Nonna Bannister

April book winner: Lenae, who left a comment at blog.

Leave a comment here or send an email to and I’ll enter you name into the May drawing for either The Stained Glass Pickup ~ Glimpses of God’s Uncommon Wisdom or A Scrapbook of Christmas Firsts ~ Stories to Warm Your Heart and Tips to Simplify Your Holiday

By the time Nonna Lisowskaja turned nine years old, she’d learned four to six languages. Also, she was on a path of learning forgiveness, courage and hope, especially from her mother, maternal grandmother, and her father.

April 21, 2009 was Holocaust Remembrance Day. Just prior to 10:00 o’clock in Israel that day, horns and sirens blared, followed by two minutes of silence. Traffic stopped. Pedestrians stopped. Most bowed their heads remembering the 11 million who perished during the Holocaust, six million were Jews.

I read The Secret Holocaust Diaries the Untold Story of Nonna Bannister a few weeks ago. Nonna, of Russian lineage, was the lone survivor of her family of 35. Later, a young adult, she arrived in New Orleans June 6, 1950 aboard the USNS General Haan, determined that her new life in America would look forward to happier times and not look backward at the evil that caused the loss of her entire family.

She brought with her a packet of documents, photos, post cards, and secret diaries that she had written from an early age on miniscule scraps of paper, in different languages. She kept the striped ticking packet hidden under her clothes and slept with it every night of her life.

She married Henry Bannister soon after her arrival, and they had over 50 years together, rearing three children. Her loving husband knew that Nonna had a painful past, but he also knew that when she was ready, she’d talk about it. He honored her time schedule.

Later in life, Nonna began to translate her diaries into English, transcribing them onto many yellow legal pads. One night she took Henry’s hand and leading him to the attic of their home, she said, “It’s time.”

There amid the dusky lighting and unadorned timbers, she opened a double locked truck. Her past unfolded, as Henry read the transcribed pages. First, he read about her beautiful childhood lived out in Russia with her privileged family. Yet, the later sheets of yellow paper told stories of unspeakable loss and sights that no child should witness.

What makes Nonna’s recounting so outstanding is an overriding sense of joy because of the goodness in others during wartime, often at great risk to themselves. Nonna adopted an attitude of forgiveness and compassion from her family and her Heavenly Father, often giving thanks in her diaries.

I admit, her tender account of her father’s dying is difficult to read, and it’s difficult to comprehend the cruelty that mankind is capable of committing. Having been severely beaten by German soldiers and his eyes gouged out, he lingered with only in-home care for six weeks before he succumbed to his injuries. Nonna said he “remained the same gentle and kind person” forgiving the soldiers who had beaten him.

Rich in spiritual gifts, Nonna’s grandmother left indelible legacies of faith to her granddaughter. Nonna also tells about gentle faith building moments with her mother. Among those are the times she witnessed her mother lovingly caring for frozen German soldiers, their enemies.

Instead of gathering fiction for summer time reading, read The Secret Holocaust Diaries. The charity you find within the pages is like a vacation for the soul. I promise you’ll have new “insights.”

Happy Mother’s Day.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you so much for suggesting The Secret Holocaust Diaries for summer reading. We need vacations for the soul, don't we.

    I enjoy your blog very much,
    Karen Goode