Jackson, Milenka 1932–

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Jackson, Milenka 1932–

(Milena Roth)

PERSONAL: Born October 3, 1932, in Prague, Czechoslovakia (now Czech Republic); daughter of Emil (an accountant) and Anna (a business owner and manager; maiden name, Stein) Roth; married; children: three. Ethnicity: "Jewish." Education: Studied nursing, 1948–53; attended London School of Economics and Political Science, 1953–57; Tavistock Clinic, postgraduate study. Politics: Liberal. Religion: Agnostic. Hobbies and other interests: Reading, painting, travel, cookery decoration, gardening, sewing.

ADDRESSES: Home—England. Agent—c/o Author Mail, University of Washington Press, 1326 5th Ave., Ste. 555, P.O. Box 50096, Seattle, WA 98101-2604.

CAREER: Psychiatric social worker and counselor at hospitals and universities in London, England, and Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, between 1957 and 1984; registered nurse. Community volunteer; volunteer recorder for National Sound Archive, British Library; member of Wiener Library, Department of German Jewish Studies at University of Sussex, and Holocaust Survivor Centre, London.

MEMBER: Society of Authors (London, England).


(Under name Milena Roth) Lifesaving Letters: A Child's Flight from the Holocaust, University of Washington Press (Seattle, WA), 2003.

WORK IN PROGRESS: Children's stories; a study of "voluntary migrants."

SIDELIGHTS: Milenka Jackson told CA: "I treasured letters from my childhood as the link with my mother, who, through her correspondence with a Girl Guide [Girl Scouts in the United States] she met at an International Girl Guide Jamboree in England in 1930, and which continued throughout the years until 1942, saved my life. Unlucky timing lost my parents their lives. I realized belatedly that the letters contained a marvelous story—an immediacy and joyful sincerity, with foreboding and determination gradually emerging from that time when whole communities and records would be lost.

"As I studied these and other letters by Guiding friends, I realized that my mother had been heroic in her way and should be commemorated. Initially I intended to leave myself out of it, but as I wrote I realized that would be impossible. It was in the context of my life and the history of Europe surrounding it that the whole picture emerged.

"Our generation of survivors of that conflict and its attempted annihilation of the Jews is dying out. Soon there will be no one left to tell the tale. The letters are unique and show a normal life in Prague until gradually the repression of the Jews took hold. They show how luck played such a large part in survival. They also show the enormous efforts that had to be made to get just one child to safety. Having written my book, I felt satisfied that those efforts had been recorded.

"Lifesaving Letters: A Child's Flight from the Holocaust was written for everyone, but of course it is particularly useful to young people at school and university. Being a psychiatric social worker with a lifetime interest in human motivation, I had noticed that few survivors discussed in their memoirs the problems and efforts required to recover from their experiences, and therefore I explored this theme, as I knew it to be universally important, whatever the problem involved.

"While postponing the writing I claimed to be too busy, but I discovered that getting up at five-thirty every morning was the answer. I work best then anyway. As to style, I detest excess verbiage (in speech, too). So I throw out excess adjectives and detail and tend to condense, sometimes maybe too much. This accounts for the book not being very long, which I find that male readers appreciate. I worry away at words and sentences to get the rhythm, sound, and meaning right. Sometimes I wish I could find a slower, more detailed pace.

"I think that all my writing has to do with basic human feelings, just as in my profession I feel the need to make this connection with people and to be useful. This seems to have been appreciated by readers of all ages and educational levels, each of whom seems to have found something in the book that is personally valid. I'm happy that the book has been favorably received worldwide. I am hoping that a translation into Czech may be possible.

"My interest in writing is lifelong, partly through a love of reading. Also, my childhood-refugee experience and its aftermath was unusual, and I wanted to analyse and communicate it.

"As to my writing process, I aim to think very hard about what I really do mean, and never to use secondhand ideas. Partly I think one is influenced by others unconciously, and then with writing (and reading) experience, I try to express what I want to say in the way I hope it will make a vivid and personal impact.

"My (pleasant) surprise as a writer has been to find myself in a new (to me) world of writers, with all the fascinating and sometimes frustrating experiences that involves. Through my mother's letters and my own life, I would like the Holocaust to become real in people's minds. I would also like my writing to be useful for people in tackling all of life's problems."



Booklist, February 15, 2004, George Cohen, review of Lifesaving Letters: A Child's Flight from the Holocaust, p. 1023.

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