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A Promise of Sweet Tea

A Jewish community comes alive in this vividly told story of a childhood interrupted by the Holocaust. In his wry and evocative prose, Pinchas Blitt conjures Kortelisy — a humble, vibrant village in the backwoods of western Ukraine. Young Pinchas lives in fear of Cossacks and wolves and the local antisemitic children, but he finds belonging in the rich texts and traditions of his ancestors. When the Soviets invade, Pinchas’s life is infused with new meaning as he innocently devotes himself to the teachings of Comrade Stalin. Then the Nazis arrive, and Pinchas witnesses his beloved village being brutally attacked. As his family seeks safety in the marshes and forests, their precarious existence brings Pinchas face to face with his own mortality and faith, and with a sense of dislocation that will accompany him throughout his life.

“These memoirs are so full of life, of dialogue, of laughter through tears, that they might easily belong in the Yiddish theatre” — David G. Roskies, Introduction

The memoir was launched in July at Montreal's Segal Centre for the Arts, and is slowly gaining wide literary acclaim. Here's multi award-winning novelist, Jim Shepard, author of The Book of Aron:

"A Promise of Sweet Tea is at once a haunting glimpse of one small corner of the Holocaust, in all of its agony, perfidy, and caprice, and a heartening celebration of family and home that lovingly commemorates a lost world. Pinchas Eliyahu Blitt’s memoir is also, sadly, more relevant than ever in terms of where the world in 2021 has found itself."

- Jim Shepard (The Book of Aron)

This follows similar reactions from Heather Reisman OC, CEO of Indigo Books and Music and Sarah Rindner (First Things, Jewish Review of Books)

"Pinchas Blitt is a master storyteller. The poignant saga of his and his family’s escape into the Ukrainian woods reminds us of the dangers of social ideologies on the march, as it brings a precious, lost world to life."

- Heather Reisman OC, founder and chief executive of Indigo Books and Music

"A Promise of Sweet Tea, simultaneously heart-wrenching and life-affirming, is about much more than one person’s story of survival. Pinchas Blitt’s memoir is in equal parts a revival of a world that has been lost, a story that sheds light on lesser understood horrors of the Shoah, and a profound philosophical meditation with relevance for today. Blitt, an actor in Yiddish theater, is a master storyteller, and I could not put this book down until its powerful, poignant end."

- Sarah Rindner (First Things, Jewish Review of Books)

At a Glance
Western Ukraine / eastern Poland
Pre-war Jewish life
Postwar Germany, displaced persons camp
Arrived in Canada in 1948
Adjusting to life in Canada
Yiddish theatre and music

344 pages, including index

Recommended Ages

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Photo of Pinchas Eliyahu Blitt

About the author

Pinchas Eliyahu Blitt was born in Kortelisy, Poland (now Ukraine) in 1931 or 1932. Pinchas and his family immigrated to Canada in 1948 and settled in Montreal, where he attended teacher’s college and law school. In addition to a long career as a lawyer, Pinchas was involved in the Yiddish theatre community in Montreal for many years. Pinchas has three children. He lives in Montreal with his life partner, Gisele.

We were close enough to these soldiers to see their faces. In them we saw the end of our lives. But, somehow, we still did not give up hope and surrender.