Ted Miesczanski doesn’t care if he makes money from his books. But he does care that the stories found within their pages are told.
Miesczanski, a longtime public school teacher in the Bronx — as well as a Riverdale resident — is the author of “Star Crossed,” a self-published novel detailing his parents’ lives and experiences during and after World War II.
His parents were concentration camp survivors, and he himself was born in a displaced persons camp in Germany. The novel begins in the Jewish quarter of Vilna, a city dubbed “the Jerusalem of Europe,” and shifts back and forth between the perspectives of his mother Raizle and father Lieb.
Raizle came from a rabbinical family while Leib was a wagoner from a poor family who worked with Raizle’s family.
The novel details Leib’s family being placed into a labor camp run by Karl Plagge, a Nazi officer who disagreed with the philosophy of his political party and used his position to protect Jews. Leib later escaped and fought alongside Abba Kovner, a Jewish poet and partisan, who led a group intent on rebelling against the Nazis and someday seek vengeance.
One day, while he was walking down the street, Lieb happened upon a raggedy women digging in the garbage. That woman turned out to be Raizle, who had escaped into Russia.
Their marriage, according to Miesczanski, was one of convenience rather than love, a fact which served not only as inspiration for the title of the book, but for its creation as well.
The love between Miesczanski’s parents was one-sided While Lieb loved Raizle, she had been in love with someone else — interrupted only by war.
Although the novel is dubbed as fiction, Miesczanski admits a good portion of it is indeed based on fact.
“I had to make it fictional, because although many of the historical people in the story are real, some of the things I had to connect and I couldn’t call it factual,” he said.
Given the troublesome and difficult nature of the novel’s subject, it is no surprise Miesczanski had some difficult writing it.
“Children of survivors live inside of a cloud, we have to deal with that reality in different ways, so I decided to write this book, and it was a tough, tough book to write,” he said. “I cried every day. Sometimes I still cry, but I wrote it, and it’s a story that people need to read because it shows how the human spirit perseveres, and that there is a place for love under the most unkind circumstances.”
Prior to writing novels, Miesczanski was a sixth-grade teacher who also led GED classes and served as a reading staff developer. He came to the United States after the war in 1949, growing up in rough neighborhoods in the south Bronx. He used those experiences to better himself as a writer.
“I had a hard time, but I figured out how to survive,” Miesczanski said. “So I wrote a book about a young Jewish boy and a black boy, and I didn’t have to lie about it because it was the truth. We became friends and we figured out, both of us, how to survive.”
Another resource that proved invaluable to Miesczanski was the writing circle he attends at Kingsbridge Library. The circle provides an opportunity for writers to come together and discuss their work, share ideas, and most importantly, write. Miesczanski wrote the majority of “Star Crossed” in the library, citing how comfortable the environment was there.
The most important thing for Miesczanski is that this story in particular is shared.
“It’s a tough business, like so many businesses today, you know?” Miesczanski said. “So I’m not published. But I decided to take the bull by the horns and self-publish this thing because this thing is special. To me it’s special.”