Who Am I And Where Is Home?
An American Woman In 1931 Palestine
My mother, Celia Antopolsky, grew up in Brooklyn, a child of immigrants. As a student at New York University, she won recognition as a talented poet.
Celia saved every letter she received during her long life (1906-2000), and drafts of many letters that she had written. Those hundreds of letters, along with my own memories as well as insights from conversations with friends and family, were the raw material from which I distilled the story of her life.
I chose to focus on a period of one year (1930-1931) during which she lived in Palestine. Palestine was then controlled by Great Britain under a mandate from the League of Nations to preserve the region as a “national home for the Jewish People.” During that year my mother corresponded with friends and suitors back home in New York. The letters reveal the personalities of her friends, of her two primary suitors, and of my mother herself. In them are the germs of tendencies and conflicts that would continue throughout her life.
I let the letters speak for themselves so that the reader may have the fun of drawing his or her own conclusions about the characters in the story. These letters date from a time when writing and receiving letters were sources of entertainment for sender and recipient alike, and are written with the zest of 20-somethings who see their lives as new, exciting adventures. I edited them for length, arranged them to make the story more easily understood, and supplemented them with my original material, brief excerpts from other sources for context, and authentic photographs such as the one on this page (Celia is third from the right in the second row).
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Who Am I and Where Is Home?
An American Woman in 1931 Palestine
A true story of romance, secrets, and the forces of history, told through the actual letters exchanged by the parties.
Celia Antopolsky travels to British-controlled Palestine with her best friend, Lillian, in search of adventure and a view of the Holy Land. Great Britain has promised to preserve Palestine as a home for the Jewish people. But political and economic pressures threaten the Jewish dream.
When Lillian returns to her boyfriend in New York, Celia stays on in Jerusalem, enjoying her active social life and her job working for a British engineer. A promising poet herself, Celia receives lively and passionate letters from two men back home.
One is Ellis – charming and talented, he hides a secret. The other is Harry, a struggling young lawyer, whose eager admiration Celia can’t help but encourage. Eighty years later, Celia’s daughter reads the letters and uncovers the story behind her parents’ strained relationship.