In 2009, Rachael Cerrotti, a college student pursuing a career in photojournalism, asked her grandmother, Hana, if she could record her story. Rachael knew that her grandmother was a Holocaust survivor and the only one in her family alive at the end of the war. Rachael also knew that she survived because of the kindness of strangers. It wasn’t a secret. Hana spoke about her history publicly and regularly. But, Rachael wanted to document it as only a granddaughter could. So, that’s what they did: Hana talked and Rachael wrote.
Upon Hana’s passing in 2010, Rachael discovered an incredible archive of her life. There were preserved albums and hundreds of photographs dating back to the 1920s. There were letters waiting to be translated, journals, diaries, deportation and immigration papers as well as creative writings from various stages of Hana’s life.
Rachael digitized and organized it all, plucking it from the past and placing it into her present. Then, she began retracing her grandmother’s story, following her through Central Europe, Scandinavia, and across the United States. She tracked down the descendants of those who helped save her grandmother’s life during the war. Rachael went in pursuit of her grandmother’s memory to explore how the retelling of family stories becomes the history itself.
We Share the Same Sky weaves together the stories of these two young women—Hana as a refugee who remains one step ahead of the Nazis at every turn, and Rachael, whose insatiable curiosity to touch the past guides her into the lives of countless strangers, bringing her love and tragic loss. Throughout the course of her twenties, Hana’s history becomes a guidebook for Rachael in how to live a life empowered by grief.
“Cerrotti brings her podcast of the same name to the page with the gripping and deeply moving debut account of her late Jewish grandmother’s experience growing up in Nazi-occupied territory during WWII.”
-Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“Readers should be grateful that Cerotti crossed those bridges and takes us along on this journey. She shows us how individuals can make big differences in the lives of others and how important it is to know our histories. Bearing witness has never been more important. Cerotti and her grandmother are powerful guides as to why these Holocaust stories matter.”
-New York Journal of Books
“Stunning…Rachael Cerrotti has redefined the art of bearing witness…We Share the Same Sky maps an astonishing journey of tenacity and transformation. Among myriad narratives in the post-Holocaust landscape, this work is a dazzling beacon.”
-Elizabeth Rosner, author of Survivor Café: The Legacy of Trauma and the Labyrinth of Memory
“The Holocaust is soon to be two generations removed from direct experience, which makes it imperative for a new generation to pick up the burden of moral memory and carry it forward. Rachael Cerrotti’s powerfully felt—and deeply researched—account is a moving and compelling instance of this urgent effort.”
-James Carroll, author of The Truth at the Heart of the Lie
“Rachael Cerrotti’s We Share the Same Sky…is a testament that the best stories are true stories and that not only is the personal political, but that history is personal.”
-Roberta Grossman, documentary filmmaker
“Wow. Wow. Wow. Obviously ‘Wow. Wow. Wow’ does not make for a good book cover quote, but it’s just hard to find the words to express all of the emotion that I feel after reading this. In this incredible journey, we walk in step with Rachael and Hana. This story is a precious gift that teaches us how we all share a common thread.”
-Nancy Spielberg, producer
“A story in which the individual seizes her right to history and her faith by tirelessly shedding light on them and in the process making her family and the world whole.”
-Julie Lindahl, author of The Pendulum: A Granddaughter’s Search for Her Family’s Forbidden Nazi Past
“A heartbreaking journey to retrace one’s family history, resulting in a universal story of profound inspiration…It is not only a personal revelation of immense and poetic magnitude, but also a clarion call to each of us to speak of man’s humanity to man.”
-Mona Golabek, author of The Children of Willesden Lane
“This is so much more than a book about the Holocaust. We Share the Same Sky takes us on an inspiring and heart-wrenching journey through time. Cerrotti is a magician. She masterfully interweaves threads of remembrance, sorrow, loss, and resilience, creating a beautiful tapestry of love and light.”
-Ariana Neumann, author of When Time Stopped
“A lyrical, captivating, and essential read. Cerrotti turns her grandmother’s remarkable story of escaping the Holocaust into an epic story of love, loss, and redemption that reminds us that the past is never lost, it’s just waiting for us to reconnect. Cerrotti’s obsessive quest to follow her grandmother’s footsteps is both a tender portrait of a young woman’s fight to survive, and a personal meditation on how history can inspire us today.”
-Jack Fairweather, author of The Volunteer
|DURATION||6 Hours, 45 Minutes|
Available on NetGalley
Average rating from 4 members
As a college student, Cerrotti approached her grandmother, the only member of her family to survive the Holocaust, hoping to record the older woman’s memories of that darkest of times. Grandmother Hana told her story, from the cruelty and brutality of the Nazi regime to the kindness of others who helped her survive. A year later when Hana passes away, Rachael discovers letters, photographs, diaries and immigration papers that document almost every moment of her grandmother’s life and realizes that the story she started with Hana, has really just begun. Combining her own life experiences with those of her grandmother, Cerrotti weaves together both an incredible story of survival and heroism with the fabric of family life and family story. Highy recommended