The Hand We Are Dealt


My mother was 80 when she had written her memoir. A grid paper notebook with a red soft cover, it was as ordinary as any. Until she gave it to me to read. She told me a lot of stories, so I knew some but in ‚her book‘, as she called it, she revealed things I had never heard about.

Anna's memoir

She wrote eighty something pages but I was most interested in the first half that described her younger years, well before my birth. She must have thought at the time that her life was coming to an end (her father dies when 81, and her mother even earlier), so she gave me the book for safekeeping, but also with a secret wish that it could see print some day. In the following years she asked about it a couple of times but I was too much occupied with my profession and said that I did not have time to make something of it. Then she forgot about it or just gave up. To this day I regret that I did not devote more time to ‚her book‘ when she could have appreciated it.

She left us in 2016, just two months before her 94th birthday. It prompted me to find the ‚book‘ and sat down to read it to the end. I vowed to create a clean copy during the following years. It was hard work, as the threads of the storyline often mixed, and got tangled up.

An idea, like a tree, needs time to grow and become big enough so that people not only see it but notice it and then recognize it.

I noticed my mother’s tree sometime in 2019 when we planned to visit our relatives in Uzhhorod. I used the couple of days to refresh my childhood memories: I spent several summers at my granny and among the relatives in one of the most western corner of the Soveit Union. Now, in a free Ukraine it had a different taste.

I realized during the visit and shortly after that my mother’s early life was unique and had a meaning that should be formulated and said to more people than only the family. Her mixed Rusyn-Hungarian ancestry, her quest after her dreams, her vigor despite misfortunes inspired me.

I started planning a story that would be based mostly on her life during the war years between 1938 and 1946, when her personality formed, when she lost everything several times and still, she had the strength not only to survive but live a full life for 94 years. Three children, six grandchildren, six great-grandchildren and two great-great-grandchildren thank their life to her to this date, and counting.

Left: the interior of the Purma café, Uzhhorod, in the late 1930’s (Chapter 6) | Right: the People’s House building of Prosvita (Enlightenment), where the Urania movie theatre and the ballroom described in Chapter 4 resided, in the late 1930’s
Left: my mother in 1937 (age 15), just before the story begins | Middle: my mother in 1956 (age 34) | Right: My mother’s mother (Terez Movchan in the book) and her stepfather (Dimitri Movchan in the book) in 1933 on their wedding picture (5 years before the book starts)

This is how ‘The Hand We Are Dealt’ was born. Let the last sentence of the book’s Author’s note appear here:

Anna’s story is here to remind us of those who have lost their identity, homeland, language or more due to the war eighty years ago, and the war happening in front of our own eyes even today.