Michael G. Kesler, Ph.D., a chemical engineering graduate of MIT and New York University, worked and consulted for the petroleum industry. After retiring in 2006, he engaged in writing of his experiences during World War II. He has rewritten and published his late wife's book, "Grit-A Pediatrician's Odyssey From a Soviet Camp to Harvard." His recent "Shards of War--Fleeing To & From Uzbekistan," has received acclaim from a number of academicians, reviewed in an international journal, and appeared for a number of months on the list of the best selling ebooks in Europe. His soon-to-be-published "Hurdles--When Cancer Strikes a Family" tells of his late wife's illness and demise and the family's struggles to cope with it. He is currently writing "One Year in the Life of a World War II Refugee," depicting his post-war stay in a DP camp.
His name has appeared in "Who's Who in the East" and in "American Men of Science."
He and his wife, Dr. Barbara S. Reed, associate professor of Journalism and Media Studies at Rutgers University, have six children and 11 grandchildren and reside in East Brunswick, New Jersey.
It starts right on the first page of Regina Kesler's straightforward, first-person account of her late-night flight from a small town in Poland to a farmhouse across the border in the Soviet Union to escape a Nazi roundup of Jews: a sense of urgency and life's purpose permeate this book. Kesler's account, edited by her husband after her too-early death from cancer in 1973, is the first I've read of Jews who were shipped to forced labor camps in Siberia during WWII. Kesler has a seemingly boundless determination to not only survive, but also to keep her family together and to stay true to her dream of becoming a doctor. She doesn't write in grandiose terms; rather, her intensely personal story draws its power from the spare prose used to navigate through one of history's greatest horrors. Kesler's account of her life in the United States after the war touches on the sometimes-awkward relationships with family members and peers who, although they care for her and help her, don't really want to know what she's been through.
The beauty of GRIT is a bit more complex than its subtile leads us to think,"A Pediatrician's Odyssey From a Soviet Camp to Harvard." Regina Kesler, M.D. left us a narrative in which the protagonist is her persistent search for an education: to get out of "the Cave" (Plato, Republic, VII). Her courage and her love follow her persistence closely. Michael G. Kesler edited his late wife's written odyssey in a way that the beauty of true human GRIT shines in every page. Gonzalo T. Palacios, Ph.D., Philosophy, Prince George's Community College, Maryland.
The title says it all! Regina Kesler's remarkable life is movingly captured in this autobiography edited by her husband. Surviving extraordinary challenges as a Jewish woman during and following WWII, Regina's grit is evidenced over and over again. Her intelligence,courage and tenacity led her to accomplish her ultimate goal of becoming a physician, but those same qualities allowed her to survive and helped spare her father from certain suffering and possible death in the Soviet army which rounded up every male they could find. Highly recommended for young adult readers, for anyone!
Written in straightforward, spare language, this story is different from most other Holocaust survivor's tales. It is not a comprehensive indictment of Nazi and Communist horror; the author and editor know that we are already familiar with those facts, so stick mostly to the very personal journey of a woman and her family. It reminded me of Huck Finn's matter-of-fact account of his life: the charges against the bad guys are stated baldly, simply, this is how it was, how we lived, we could expect little else.
Regina Kessler does survive and eventually emigrates to New York to face new challenges. I finished this book wishing I could have known her, a woman of such courage and determination, someone who defied murderers, worked very hard to protect her family, did not given in to grief, and overcame language barriers and sexism to follow her dream of becoming a doctor.
GRIT: A Pediatrician's Odyssey From a Soviet Camp to Harvard is a fascinating book, written with sensitivity and artistry. Not only is it a testament to the human spirit, but it is touching and inspirational to read how this young woman never gave up her dream. It teaches that no matter what happens, nothing happens without a steadfast determination and vision, willingness to ask and courage to act. Most moving of all is to realize who wrote it and why.