Miriam Katin was born in Hungary during World War II. She doesn’t remember much about the war except that this war reminded people of other wars and that other wars were going to also come. War was expected, intruders to the land were a given, and upheaval was just how she lived. Her young childhood was a jumble.
In an attempt to gather all she remembers, she wrote We Are On Our Own, a memoir about a mother and her daughter’s survival in World War II. Miriam writes and illustrates the story of her and her mother’s escape from the Nazis in Budapest, Hungary from 1944-1945. It’s compiled from her memories, her parents’ memories, as well as whatever primary source material she could find.
Miriam’s father was off fighting for the Hungarian army when she and her mother were forced out of their home. Desperate to survive, the two faked their deaths and fled to the countryside on foot with few possessions. Miriam was understandably confused and distraught about what was happening: where is her beloved dog, Rexy, after all? He would never leave her. Disguising themselves as illegitimate child and peasant servant woman, the two manage to stay steps ahead of the German soldiers. Miriam’s mother managed to hold onto hope that her husband would survive and that they would one day all be reunited.
Miriam was only a toddler when her world dissolved. Her childhood memories were fragmented, full of chocolate, forests, snow, strange men, and the noise and brutality of war. This memoir is her way of gathering those fragments and forming something that makes sense. Besides their physical crises, Miriam and her family go through a crisis of faith. The two contemplate God, His decisions, and why He would allow devastation and destruction across the world. This is a constant crisis for the two and for many other survivors of the Shoah/Holocaust. Miriam merges her broken pieces into a beautifully told story of her childhood innocence amidst unbelievable violence.