Timmins sisters Ghislaine Raymond and Laurette Leblond were honoured and surprised to receive a warm literary welcome for their book, A Living Nightmare: From the memoirs and stories told by Anneliese Pitt, written about their late friend.
Last year, Raymond and Leblond released a book based on the early life memories of Anneliese (Anne) Möwis Pitt.
The book has recently received five-star recognition from Readers’ Favourite, one of the largest book review and award contest sites.
Leblond, who now lives in B.C., said it was an honour because the sisters weren’t sure how the book would be received but the response from the readers has been positive.
The sisters receive messages from people around the world including India, the United States and Australia.
“We were ecstatic. We were really surprised, we didn’t expect that. So was the whole family, Anne’s family,” Raymond added.
A Living Nightmare tells the story of Pitt’s early life growing up in Germany. Born in 1929, she had three sisters and parents. Pitt witnessed how her father was taken by the Nazis to a concentration camp. After Pitt turned 14, her mother and sister abandoned her, so Pitt had to survive on her own.
Pitt had a lifelong dream to have her memories published in a book. It took Raymond and Leblond five years to go through Pitt’s notes and memoirs piled in a shoebox and do research to put together the book.
For Raymond, writing the book was very hard and emotional.
"When we would discuss, it would heal her: all those pent-up feelings would come out and we would cry," Raymond recalled.
Leblond’s daughter Kim also helped with the editing. The book was officially launched in October 2020.
Pitt died earlier that year, in June 2020, but she received the completed copy just days before she died.
“We were determined to have the book done. We knew Anne was ill and we did it,” Leblond said. “We managed to put the book in her hand.”
Raymond and Pitt met in Timmins in the early 2000s and remained friends for about 20 years until Pitt's death.
After Pitt moved to Timmins, she taught Raymond how to make porcelain dolls and quilts. In exchange, Raymond drove Pitt to do errands and grocery shopping.
Their friendship grew and later, Raymond introduced Pitt to Leblond.
Raymond and Pitt's friendship was so strong, they couldn’t spend time apart from each other for too long. One time, when Pitt moved to Toronto to be near her second son, she missed Raymond so much, she asked Raymond to come and get her.
“In those three months she was gone, it was very hard,” Raymond recalled.
In March 2020, Pitt was admitted to the Timmins and District Hospital with a bladder infection. She stayed at the hospital for three months where she contracted COVID-19 and died June 12. Raymond had a chance to visit her friend at the hospital and spend the last night with Pitt.
Raymond wished the book ended on a happier note and wanted people to see Pitt “happy.” She wrote a short story based on the rest of Pitt’s life but she isn’t sure if she’s going to publish it.
"She's had struggles all her life. She’s always felt that she was cheated of her youth,” Raymond said about Pitt. “Things happened that were so unfair. It was life.”
Leblond, on the other hand, said she’s happy with the way the book turned out.
“It's getting out there. It's getting out to people. Every step of the way is a plus because it gets the story out there, saying kids are not immune to war. They’re right in there” she said.
"Peace is more important, be good to the children. Most of our children are safe but once they get out there during a war, it's a monster. So hopefully peace remains, especially for our children," Leblond said.
For more information about the A Living Nightmare, visit Facebook.
Dariya Baiguzhiyeva, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, TimminsToday.com