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Flutsztejn-Gruda, Ilona 1930–

Flutsztejn-Gruda, Ilona 1930–


Born 1930, in Varsovie, Poland; immigrated to Canada, 1968; children: three. Education: College degree (chemistry), 1966.


Home—Quebec, Canada. Agent—c/o Author Mail, Sumach Press, 1415 Bathurst St., Ste. 202, Toronto, Ontario M5R 3H8, Canada. E-mail[email protected]


University of Quebec, Trois-Rivières, Quebec, Canada, professor of chemistry, 1968–91; writer. Affiliated with Polish Jewish Heritage Foundation.


Quand les grands jouvaient à la guerre,, Actes Sud Junior, 1999, translated from the Polish by Sarah Cummins as When Grownups Play at War: A Child's Memoir, Sumach Press (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 2005.

L'aïeule (novel), translated from the Polish by Joanna Gruda, Éditions David (Ottawa, Ontario, Canada), 2004.


When Grownups Play at War: A Child's Memoir is Ilona Flutsztejn-Gruda's account of her experiences living in eastern Europe during World War II. At age nine, Flutsztejn-Gruda and her family fled from their home in Warsaw, Poland in the wake of the Nazi invasion, and after a grueling six-year journey, finally settled on a collective farm in Uzbekistan where they learned to adapt to a rural lifestyle. The author recounts the hardships of this forced relocation as well as of the anti-Semitism that was so prevalent during the war years. She also shares the emotional toll on her family; her mother, for example, carried a terrible guilt over the fact that her own sister had to be left behind in Poland due to illness. When the Flutsztejn family returned to their native Poland, all their relatives had vanished and no record of them remained.

Noting that Flutsztejn-Gruda's account of her family's "leave-taking … is most memorable," Hazel Rochman wrote in a Booklist review that When Grownups Play at War "speaks with immediacy about a refugee child's trauma and survival." Andrea Belcham, writing in the Montreal Review of Books, commented that "Flutsztejn-Gruda advances her narrative at a rapid pace, with only the sparest of passages devoted to self-reflection, though her attention to the physical details of the foreign lands and situations that she and her family encounter are astute."

After completing her college degree, Flutsztejn-Gruda immigrated to eastern Canada, and taught chemistry at the University of Quebec for over two decades. She wrote her memoir, in Polish, shortly after retiring from her university post, and has also gone on to pen a novel which is published in French. "I always told my story of wartime survival to my family—first to my children and then to my grandchildren," she commented to Stuart Nulman for the Canadian Jewish Tribune. In addition to publishing her own story of survival, Flutsztejn-Gruda has also been an active participant in the Polish Jewish Heritage Foundation, helping other Holocaust survivors record their stories. "It is very important to get as many remaining Holocaust survivors as possible to write about their experiences and to give witness to this tragic period in history," she told Nulman.

Biographical and Critical Sources


Flutsztejn-Gruda, Ilona, When Grownups Play at War: A Child's Memoir, translated by Sarah Cummins, Sumach Press (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 2005.


Booklist, October 1, 2005, Hazel Rochman, review of When Grownups Play at War, p. 46.

Montreal Review of Books, winter, 2006, Andrea Belcham, "The Will to Live."


Canadian Review of Materials, (April 11, 2006).

Jewish Tribune Online, (April 11, 2006), Stuart Nulman, "From Poland to Uzbekistan."

Sumach Press Web site, (April 11, 2006).

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