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Teaching The Children of Willesden Lane
Resources to help you teach the book in middle schools and high schools

About the Author

Q & A With Mona

How long did it take you to write The Children of Willesden Lane?

It took me many years to write the book—nearly 10. I started and then stopped and started again and reworked the manuscript several times.

How old were you when your mother started telling you about her experiences in the Kindertransport?

I was seven years old. It was like a fairy tale, in a strange way. She told me the stories during my piano lessons with her.

Did you have other piano teachers besides your mother?

Yes. I studied with several outstanding pianists: Leon Fleisher, Reginald Stewart, and Joanna Graudan. But my mother was my true teacher and inspiration.

What was Lee Cohen's role in writing The Children of Willesden Lane?

Lee Cohen was my co-writer. He went to Vienna and London to research my mother’s story. He is a poet and screenwriter, and much of his work is about young people. He also owns a gallery in Los Angeles devoted to the art of illustration, called Every Picture Tells a Story.

What was it like for you not having grandparents, and knowing how they suffered?

It is hard to miss what you have never known. But sometimes, when I was growing up, I envied other kids who had wonderful grandparents. I imagined what Malka, my grandmother, would have been like. Mostly, I felt so sad for my mother and father and for their losses at such a young age.

Did you get to meet any of the children from the hostel?

Yes, I met Aaron, Gina, Gunter, Hans, and Paul.

How did you gather information about their experiences?

I interviewed them and many others by phone. I did a great deal of research.

Did you ever get to meet Mrs. Cohen or Mr. Hardesty or Mrs. Canfield?

No, they died before I could meet them. But I met Hans, the son of Mrs. Cohen.

What happened to your mother after she emigrated to America? Did she play in concerts?

My mother played some concerts, but she put her whole passion and soul into my sister Renée and me. My parents were very poor when they came to America, and so it was really impossible for my mother to continue her concertizing career.

How do you think your mother’s experiences—in the Kindertransport, living at Willesden Lane, and losing her parents—affected her in life?

Those experiences made her very strong, yet very sensitive to other people’s pains and losses. They fueled her determination to make something of her life, so that she would forever honor her parents and their memory.

What did your father, Michel Golabek, do during the war? What did he do when he came to America?

My father, who was born in Poland, fought in the French Resistance during the war. When he came to America, he got odd jobs to survive. Eventually he saved money and bought a factory and made men’s sportswear. He became successful and bought real estate, also. But he never became the doctor he hoped to become before the war. That dream was cut short. 

What did Sonia and Rosie and Leo and Esther do in the United States?

Everyone lived near each other in Los Angeles. The families supported each other through the years. Leo worked with my father in the factory. Rosie and Leo’s daughter, Esther, grew up and became a cantor. Sonia had two children and lived across the street from my mother until she passed away in 1996; Lisa passed away the following year.

Did Lisa stay in touch with other children from the hostel later in life?

Yes. My mother wrote to many of the kids; sometimes they spoke on the phone. Through the years, they saw each other on occasion. When I made my London debut, many of the kids from the hostel sat in the first row and cheered Lisa’s daughter who came back to England to complete the dream!

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