Tema Merback’s Biography

Tema Merback and Dina BalbienI always knew that one day I would write and publish a novel, the question was never if but rather what and when. Subject matter presented itself everywhere I looked, however, for some reason I was not prepared to tackle the one story that was personal, the one that threatened perilously near my heart. Creating the story of my mother’s survival of the Holocaust seemed a journey through Hell and one that might prove to be too painful to revisit. Then it struck me, what if the memoir became a novel written in the present, in the voice of my mother as it occurred. The journey would become one of hope, a passage from ashes to redemption. A novel of an adolescent transformed into womanhood set against the background of world conflagration. “In the Face of Evil” was born.

I was born in 1953 in Los Angeles, CA to a Holocaust survivor, Dina Frydman from Radom, Poland and Leo Balbien who was rescued by the Kindertransport from Vienna, Austria. I was raised in a loving home by two people whose lives had been shattered by the Holocaust, though in entirely different ways. Naturally, this ever present darkness shrouded my world. I attended Granada Hills High School, worked countless jobs, and became a Kathryn McBride Scholar at Bryn Mawr College following my passion for literature and art history. In Philadelphia I met and married my husband. In the following years my two children would gain the light of day and consume the energy of my life. Any desire to write would be deferred by the demands of child rearing.

The aging of a parent, especially one that harbors an unimaginable memory of the unspeakable, bears its own psychological burden. In my case, the child became the psychologist listening as my mother cleansed her soul and dealt with the scars of traumatic experience. The outcome became an indelible impression of the events and the people, the beauty of life before September 1st 1939 and the degradation and destruction of the following six years. During those six years my mother a child of ten was forced into adulthood. Her childhood was eradicated, her future forever altered.

Through the years, several writers have approached my mother desirous to tell her miraculous tale of survival. Unbeknownst to me, my mother had long ago determined that only I could bring this book to fruition, only I would write it with an intimacy and compassion that no one else could better elucidate. This book is the result of a collaboration of two forever bound souls, a mother and a daughter.

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