A heartbreaking and uplifting author event

Published on 18 November 2020


MidCoast Council Libraries’ upcoming online author event covers family history, World War II and self discovery, from a highly educated, fascinating woman.

Join author and teacher, Betty O'Neill for a zoom talk on her latest release The Other Side of Absence Discovering My Father’s Secrets, on Tuesday 1 December from 6pm to 7pm.

Betty’s memoir is about resilience and strength as a daughter reconciles the damage and trauma wrought on families by war.

Betty grew up knowing very little about her father Antoni. She knew that he had fled Poland after WWII, that he had disappeared one night when she was a baby, and that his brief reappearance when she was a young adult had been harrowing and painful.

Fifty-five years after he deserted her family, Betty became determined to solve the mystery of her absent father and discover exactly who was Antoni Jagielski.

Betty’s search took her to Poland, where she unexpectedly inherited a family apartment from a half-sister she had never met.

Sifting through photos, letters, and other clues from her father’s life, she put together a more complete picture of Antoni: Polish resistance fighter, a Catholic political prisoner, survivor of Auschwitz and Gusen concentration camps, an exile in post-war England, and a migrant to Australia.

What also became clear, through writing The Other Side of Absence, is the illumination of parts of her own life; as the only child of a single parent, Betty was fostered out to different families and then sent to boarding school at age 9. Her upbringing was often painful and lonely. The war cast long shadows.

“We’re delighted to have Betty joining us to discuss this incredible book,” said MidCoast Council Libraries Manager, Chris Jones.

“Betty’s story is both heartbreaking and uplifting, and it makes her success even more impressive.”

Betty O’Neill is a writer and teacher with a lively curiosity and passion for learning.

She has an eclectic range of degrees, the most recent being a Doctorate in Creative Arts.

Betty is a lecturer in Creative Intelligence and Innovation at the University of Technology, Sydney.

She has presented conference papers in Australia and overseas on writing family history, the Cold War, migration and the domestic space as an archive.

This event will take place on Zoom and a Zoom account is needed to take part. A link to the event will be sent to ticket holders the day of the event.

For more information and for bookings, head to www.midcoastlibraries.com.au/events