Anikó: The stranger who loved me --
the reviews

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'The naughtiest kid in the world':
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REVIEWS BY:
Cheryl O'Brien
Kora
Eva Kende
Michael Larocca
'Konyvesevike'

Cheryl O'Brien

Cheryl is an email friend of at least 10 years' standing. We consider ourselves to be brother and sister, although we have only met once, in May 2013.

   This book has been on my to read list for far too long! Last night I sat down to read it not quite sure what to expect. At 1 am I forced myself to pry my eyes away from it and get some sleep. This morning I completed it.

   "Anikó: The Stranger Who Loved Me" by Dr Bob Rich should be compulsory reading in all schools world wide. In this story we see so clearly the evils of discrimination, the horrors of war, the sheer despair that comes from politicking and the crushing effects of greed and selfishness. We also see the effects of deep and abiding love, the power that comes from a deep sense of community, the lifting up of the broken by compassion.

   To be Jewish was tough for Anikó, to be a woman who was Jewish in a world increasingly being taken over by the Nazis should have been sufficient to diminish this woman in her adolescence. Rising above the challenges before her, Anikó faces the world with determination, wit and an extraordinary sense of compassion. Stripped of the future she had planned and studied for so carefully with her father's blessing, she created a new future, stripped of that, she created yet another and so her life evolved and grew. The man she had come to love and adore sent her beloved first born son, Robi away from Hungary to Australia. Wretched with grief for the loss, she recreates herself and her family again.

   Like his mother, Robi Reich has the capacity to evolve his life and so from the adolescent immigrant in the company of a disgruntled uncle he has evolved into the masterful author, loving professional grandfather, compassionate counselling psychologist, and very determined environmentalist. Dr Bob Rich shares with the reader the very soul of his mother, the woman who loved him so dearly her love reached around the globe to envelop and guide him.


Kora

Kora initially emailed me for help to resolve a traumatic experience. Since then she has bought a number of my books, and wrote this:

   I read your book. Quite an interesting family you had there from your mother's side. I adore aunt Janka so much, I adore your grandparents. Wonderful people. The war events were elaborated in so much detail, I thought, I am part of it. It made me shiver at times. I feel sorry for the people and their losses. Unfair world we live, not then, not now, not later, but always.

   Uncle Peter gave me creeps about his immoral habits. I have had problems with men like that. He lied in many ways. Maybe after my personal experiences, I am too disapproving of these people, who are just users. He did use his skills to survive the war. Maybe, Tibor couldn't do what uncle Peter had to do to survive. He was not honest to your family either about the gold. He should not have kept it.

   A lot of "communist" stories happened in Albania as well. I was little but I do know that the same Soviet Union rules applied there.

   My father tells a lot of stories. You had to carry a communist red card (Party membership) to advance. My father never enrolled, big mistake from his part. I guess I take a lot after him, too honest and straightforward, like Joseph :))))). Unlike us, You have been a brat. :))

   One in 3 people were spies, you had to watch what to say. My mother's uncle was jailed 13 years, because he raised an argument on how the agriculture ministry should have operated. He earned that post since he finished agronomy with high results from University Luigi Bocconi in Milan, Italy, in 1937. Funny to mention that, while he was jailed, he got punished with the death sentence, "for propaganda against the Party." Later, the verdict was changed to life imprisonment, since they needed his expertise in agronomy and agriculture projects. He also translated and created an extensive literature of agriculture books, through which, the first University of Agriculture was opened in Albania. While leading agriculture projects in poor conditions, he exchanged expertise with an Hungarian engineer who also was part of the team. Since the two became friends, the Hungarian went to the People's government and appealed that the punishment to be reduced to a certain years. That's how he ended up serving 13 years instead of his entire life.

   Above all, I love your mother's personality. Your mother was a tough woman and I am so glad she pursued all her dreams. Tibor may have been a good husband but did not prove his love in the war. He proved it in the ballrooms. War is the reality stage. I like it so much when she said: he was a good husband, but if I did not leave him, I was not going to find my love. That struck me. Maybe I am wrong to think such about her husband as a reader, I am getting egoist, but I am going with the woman instinct here. I am going with Aniko's heart. Your mother is an icon and philanthropist. She is an incredible lady. There are no words to describe her talent.

   Your writing amazes me. When I read your style, I completely forget about the rest. I forget about myself as well. Very few write like you.


Eva Kende

   Eva Kende is best known for her excellent books on cooking (Eva's Hungarian Kitchen and Eva's Kitchen Confidence), but she is also the author of an autobiographical short story collection, Snapshots -- Growing up behind the Iron Curtain, which overlaps in time and place with my book. She is a retired biochemist living in the Canadian Rockies in Canmore, Alberta with her husband John. She was born in Budapest in 1941 and came to Canada as a refugee in 1957, after the Hungarian revolution.When she found out about Anikó: The stranger who loved me, she was incredibly helpful about correcting minor mistakes of fact and providing feedback about details such as street names. She also wrote the following:

   I've never believed in cemeteries or headstones. I remember my deceased loved ones in odd places that I associate with their life or their achievements instead. A gay cafe for one, a clump of bushes on a street corner for another and a restored house for another serves as my way of paying my respects. Bob Rich, the author of Aniko, did one better, he erected a monument to his mother in the form of a book. A monument he invites the world to share. In reading the tale of Aniko, while one is conscious of the pain the author must feel, he skillfully pushes it out of the way to tell the story of an extraordinary woman that happened to be his mother. Aniko is a woman of strength, courage, determination with lots of soft feminine love in her heart. She uses these attributes to survive, to prosper and to the benefit of her family. Bob's writing style brings to life Aniko and the city of Budapest in an era that I know well from my personal life. I could see the places, feel the atmosphere, hear the sounds and, from time to time, I imagined that I could even smell the odors emanating from the buildings as I passed them. Not only the setting is authentic, but the problems Aniko must face and conquer are familiar. I sat on the edge of my chair throughout the book wondering how she will deal with one adversity after another.

   Aniko is a riveting book, inspiring and that I recommend highly.


Michael Larocca

   Michael is a talented editor and writer with multiple publications. He publishes a widely circulated e-zine Who Moved My Rice?.

ANIKO: THE STRANGER WHO LOVED ME
A biography by Dr. Bob Rich
EPPIE 2004 Winner
Reviewed by Michael LaRocca, author of RISING FROM THE ASHES

   "This book is a tribute to a remarkable woman who managed the impossible more than once. Her story is worth the telling." These words come from Dr. Bob Rich's prologue. And he is absolutely right.

   Aniko Stern was a Hungarian Jew. Through her story, we are transported to a time and place that may be no more to us than a few words in a history book. But that's only the beginning of ANIKO. The war only lasted a few years. It simply seems longer because of its aftermath.

   This book contains so much more than that. Real people faced with real decisions. An intelligent, determined woman who is able to do much more than struggle to survive, and who could never be content as a simple housewife. I've met and admired such women all my life. Bob has given me one more.

   When Aniko dares to love again, we see a side of single parenthood that I honestly wasn't aware existed, brought powerfully to life by the masterful writing of Dr. Bob Rich.

   I've read several of Bob's short story collections, so I already knew that he was a chameleon, adopting different personas, view-points and attitudes as his stories required. But it's even more amazing to see in the course of a single book, a story spanning decades and told through the eyes of a number of different people.

   Aniko's business acumen reminded me of my own mother. Very strong "people skills," which are equally useful in post-war Hungary or 1960s North Carolina. Or, in fact, anywhere at any time.

   That's something I really got from this book. As I said before, real people living real life. Things you can identify with, things you can learn from, things that will inspire you to think of things that the author may have never intended. Life is like that.

   In the predictable boilerplate "novel," you can only think in one direction while you read. It's the one the author leads you along by the nose. But a genuine author gives you literature. A recreation of life so real that five different readers can come from the experience with five different experiences, all equally valid.

   By that standard, ANIKO is definitely literature. I am grateful that Bob chose to share his mother's story with us, and it is a story that I will read again. That's the highest praise you can get out of me.


'Konyvesevike'

   A Canadian lady of Hungarian origins bought my book Anikó: The stranger who loved me. This was the first e-book she'd ever read, but she's been back to buy Sleeper, Awake. Here is in extract of what she thought of Anikó

   I recently finished reading Dr. Bob Rich's incredible book about his mom, Aniko, and the hardships they all went through during the Nazi persecution. It presents a detailed emotional torture that his entire family went through. The only other book I have ever read on the subject of anti-semetism was "The Diary Of Ann Frank" which was a compulsory read in my high school years. Their entire experience is very unreal to one unless one has gone through it oneself. To me especially it is a very outside experience...

   Too bad I didn't know of the addresses Dr. Rich mentions in his book when I went to Budapest over a year ago so I could have looked them up. If you want to read a touching book on a mother's struggles, fear and love for her family, and all that she is capable of, as well as Dr. Bob's own childhood horrors and struggles, then definitely this book is a must.


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