Searching for Lottie draws from the wartime experiences of Susan’s family, whose lives were forever changed by the Holocaust.
Charlotte Kulka (called Lotte -- in English, "Lottie") was my mother's teenage cousin. She lived in Prague with her father and stepmother. Her mom passed away when she was little. Tragically, Charlotte perished, but her beloved aunt, my Cousin Vally Szemere, survived with false papers in Budapest. Vally boarded with a Catholic family who protected her and they became lifelong friends. My middle name was given in Lotte's memory.
Another relative, Magda Szemere, was a famous young violin soloist in Europe before she, too, was arrested and forever disappeared. I wrote about my bittersweet delight at finding her music in the essay, “Sweet Strings of Sorrow.”
In doing the research for this book, I discovered to my astonishment that her music had been preserved on gramophone recordings and remains available in music archives.
My mother's cousin, Magda Krizan, survived the war posing as a model and nanny in Hungary -- and was a member of the resistance. She escaped from Communist Czechoslovakia with her husband in 1968 and came to America.
My mother, Erika Lencz, escaped from Vienna in 1938 with her brother, Erwin. She was twenty years old. My grandparents and nearly all the rest of her family were lost. Mom worked in a pillow factory in Brooklyn and as a nanny before settling down in Maine with my father, where she helped run our family bridal shop, had five children, and gave us the gift of hope and love. Just like Nana Rose in the book, Mom’s favorite saying was “if at first you don’t succeed — try, try again…!”