Shoshanna, David and Tirzah Hanzlicek

The mother and children of the Hanzlicek’s Israeli arm, Shoshanna, much like her husband, is deeply religious, but maintains a happy household deep in the rural Judean countryside, while David is the apple of his father’s eye and a hard working farmer who follows in his parents footsteps regarding his religious vocation, and Tirzah, much like her American relative, is energetic and free-spirited, both brother and sister having something of a healthy sibling rivalry.

Together with the creation of Ephraim, I wanted to build around him a family to show, in the same manner as Mátyás to show how far as a person he had come from the dark days of World War II, but at the same time I was presented with similar character creation issues as with Justine, Janie and Natasha.

Like Justine, Shoshanna has the least development, but in the context of being Ryan’s best friend’s aunt, not much focus could really be put on her as a character as would be the case with many relatives of friends. However, at the same time, I didn’t want to leave her simply bare when it came to a background, and thus I turned to the same method I’d done with Mátyás and Ephraim by giving her a war story of her own.

To indulge my love of history, Shoshanna’s origins came from Austria during the pre-war era where she was originally born with the name of Heidi, but upon the enacting of the Anschluss by Nazi Germany in 1938, wherein Hitler’s insidious Third Reich annexed the nation of Austria to form part of his ever expanding empire, Heidi and her parents had to escape the antisemitism that followed, choosing to return to the historic Jewish homeland of Israel, by then the British-controlled Mandate of Palestine.

One less forgotten aspect of the founding of the Jewish state in Israel, is that a white paper signed in 1939 by British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain, while promising the creation of a Jewish home state within 10 years of its enactment, limited the number of Jews migrating to Palestine to 75,000 per year, but with immigration policies dictated by the Arab majority population. Therefore, for Jews in Shoshanna’s position, most were unable to escape the holocaust of Europe as no other nation wanted them, and thus many either had to be smuggled in or change their origins to that of a non-Jewish heritage, hence why the lady born as Heidi came to Israel under the name of Shoshanna.

For David and Tirzah, I was able to give them a touch more development than Shoshanna as they were more around Ryan’s age, and interacted with him more as Janie’s friend.

David I envisaged from the start as something of an impish older teen who takes Ryan under his wing as almost a little brother, constantly pranking or making jabs at his younger sister – not so much out of malice, but for his own amusement.

Tirzah, meanwhile, was essentially a reflection of Janie, energetic and free-spirited, but holding a somewhat sarcastic edge that helps her to retaliate when David makes his jokes. In some regards, and something that often happens, while Tirzah is older than Janie, she often turns to her younger cousin for a lead when it comes to fun and games, seeing her as the more mature one with all the ideas rather than the other way around.

In the case of all three, though, they are highly traditional, both in their Jewish faith but also their eastern European heritage. The Bat Mitzvah scene gave me a great opportunity to put Shoshanna and Tirzah in traditional Czech garments from years past in order to symbolize that they keep alive their ancestral roots, with Natasha even being given a traditional dress of her own.

In another piece of development for Shoshanna, the dress worn by Janie to attend her Bat Mitzvah is a family heirloom handed down from generation to generation, with Tirzah and Shoshanna both undertaking the sacred ceremony in the same garment years and decades earlier – it being one of the few things Shoshanna (as Heidi) escaped with during the Anschluss. It’s touches like these I love to put into my stories when it comes to ancestry, where what to many may bee just an unremarkable dress that would probably have been left behind in a situation of fleeing, is still held on to regardless as it’s a physical piece of the family story – a garment worn by people up to and over a century earlier who have long since passed away, but a part of who they were still lives on in a simple piece of clothing.