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Hiding in the Spotlight: A Musical Prodigy's Story of Survival, 1941-1946 Hardcover – June 27, 2009
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From Publishers Weekly
In this remarkable recreation of the WWII years, Dawson, a columnist at the Orlando Sentinel, writes about his mother, pianist Zhanna Arkashyna in an account reminiscent of Wladyslaw Szpilman's The Pianist. As a child in the Ukraine, Zhanna was offered a scholarship to the Moscow State Conservatory. Her life changed in 1941 when Nazis grouped her Jewish family with thousands to be executed; Zhanna and her sister, Frina, escaped to roam the countryside as fugitives, hiding and surviving. With a new name and a non-Jewish identity, Zhanna performed for unsuspecting Nazis. Arriving in New York in 1946, the sisters enrolled at Juilliard on scholarships. Zhanna married violist David Dawson, and the couple moved in 1948 to Bloomington, Ind., joining the music faculty at Indiana University. To research his mother's homeland, Dawson traveled to Ukraine, including Dorbitsky Yar, where 15,000 Jews were murdered, among them Zhanna and Frina's parents. On a memorial listing the dead, Dawson was shocked to find his mother's name: I had come that close to nonexistence. With italicized selections from his mother's own writing, Dawson skillfully weaves the story of her life and music into a vibrant tapestry, tattered and torn, yet triumphant. (July)
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Summoning all the colors of a Chopin prelude, Greg Dawson has painted a vivid picture of his mother from her fairy tale childhood in the Ukraine to her final escape from the Nazis and her triumphant voyage to America. A wonderful, staggering achievement. — Mona Golabek, Grammy-nominated pianist and host of The Romantic Hours
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Born in 1927, Zhanna, the author's mother, was the older of two sisters. The girls' parents were Dmitri and Sara Arshansky, non-religious Jews who were raising a young family in Berdyansk, Ukraine, a resort town on the northern coast of the Sea of Avov. Dmitri, the father, was a candy-maker by day and an amateur violinist by night. Passionate about music, he had high aspirations for his two girls. His early dreams were fulfilled.
By the time she was six years old, Zhanna, a prodigy at the piano, was occasionally playing live on local radio. One such performance revealed the level of her skill and poise. As Zhanna played at the radio station, the lights in the studio suddenly went out. But there was no break in the music. Dmitri had always insisted that his daughter not only memorize a number, but that she never so much as look at her hands when she played. Anytime she learned a new piece, her father required Zhanna to perform it with the lights out. For her, a flawless recital in the dark was nothing unusual. But with the Stalinist crack-down in the Soviet Union, followed by the Holocaust, the blissful lives of the Arshanskys were changed forever.
Hiding in the Spotlight tells the story of how Zhanna and Frina survived the mass execution of more than 15,000 Jews at Drobitsky Yar in December 1941, when their parents and grandparents were murdered; how they went on to become, of all things, German-sponsored entertainers living in Berlin, literally next door to the Nazis who had marked them and all "their kind" for death; and how, eventually, they became scholarship students at the Julliard School in New York after the War was over.
The Nazi regime murdered nearly 6 million Jews. This is the story of two Jewish girls who survived not in a camp or a cellar, but in the spotlight. Riveting stuff.
david jay logan
I first heard of Zhanna on a CNN interview and then listened to an audio clip of her playing Chopin's Fantasy Impromptu (her signature piece). As a pianist, her performance reveals breathtaking virtuosity and is worthy of all the acolades noted in rave reviews of her playing by critics who heard her play. What she and her sister endured and experienced is really hard to actually believe... but I know its true, all true. You sense this is a true story that must be told! I only hope someone makes a movie of her life.... soon.
A captivating story of, Zhanna, a child prodigy and survivor of the holocaust, you will not want to put this down. Written by her son, Greg, who discovered how truly special his mother is, as a young adult. Be sure to read Greg's follow up book, "Judgement Before Nuremberg" to learn about the Ukraine and The First Nazi War Crimes Trials.