We Are On Our Own
We Are On Our Own
By Miriam Katin. Published by Drawn & Quarterly.
Softcover, 136 pages, B&W and Colour, 2023 (originally published 2006)
A crisis of faith follows mother and daughter in this beautifully rendered, harrowing WWII memoir
With the heart-rending We Are On Our Own, Miriam Katin recounts the story of her escape from Germany-occupied Hungary as a child led by her determined mother. The two fled Budapest near the end of WWII and at the age of sixty-three Katin enshrined her memory in these extraordinary pages, originally published in hardcover over fifteen years ago.
In 1944, Miriam is a toddler beloved by her dog Rexy, but when her mother is forced to give up their “Jewish dog” to the German authorities, Miriam’s world begins to unravel. The two flee to the countryside after faking their deaths and traversing lands blanketed with snow. Miriam’s fragmented childhood memories of forests, chocolate, strange men, and the noise of war are reconstituted in this beautifully told, epic journey wherein the innocence of a child is set against unthinkable violence.
Another crisis, one of faith, haunts the severed family on their path. Struggling to reunite with Miriam’s father conscripted to the Hungarian army, mother and daughter contemplate God, wondering how He could allow such destruction. Poetic words of the Torah combine with images of war as the author examines the theological dilemma plaguing both victims and survivors of the Shoah. When Miriam and her mother hide with a winemaker, they soothe their nerves with the tonic, reciting “God is red. God is in the glass.” God, they understand, is in the very human will to survive, and in that pursuit of survival, we are truly on our own.
“Miriam Katin brings her masterful eye and hand to this urgent story, bringing a level of detail and complexity that only one who experienced these ordeals can know. We are lucky to have this book, which now rightly resides in the canon of graphic works on the Shoah and the Second World War. Read it and know.“—Leela Corman, We All Wish for Deadly Force
“We Are On Our Own is a harrowing story of survival and resilience, told masterfully through Katin’s gorgeous colored pencil drawings. An important work by a brilliant cartoonist."—Sarah Glidden, Rolling Blackouts
“Katin’s art is an impressionistic swirl; early scenes in sophisticated Budapest recall the elegance of Helen E. Hokinson, while the chaos of war is captured in dark, chaotic compositions reminiscent of Käthe Kollwitz. This book is a powerful reminder of the lingering price of survival."—Publishers Weekly, Starred Review