Blum, Martha

Martha Blum, writer (b at Czernowitz, Austria [now Chernivtsi, Ukraine] 30 June 1913, d at Saskatoon, Sask 12 Dec 2007). Martha Blum grew up in Czernowitz, which was part of Austria when she was born, but was ceded to Romania at the end of WORLD WAR I. Her university studies took her to Prague, Strasbourg, Bucharest and Paris, where she studied pharmacy, linguistics and music. The German invasion of her country in the early 1940s led to her internment in a prison-labour camp. Blum immigrated to Canada in 1951 and settled in Saskatoon in 1954, where she worked as a pharmacist and vocal coach. Martha Blum was an active and integral member of the Saskatoon arts community.

Martha Blum published her first novel when she was 86 years old. The Walnut Tree (1999) is based on the traumatic events of her own life and recounts the experiences of a young Ukrainian Jewish girl, Süssel, during WORLD WAR II, and her later life in Canada. It won the Saskatchewan Book Award and the Brenda MacDonald Riches First Book Award. Children of Paper (2003) is a collection of linked short stories, set in the fictional Jewish village of Suczorno, Ukraine, at the turn of the 20th century. The musical, mystic culture of the small community is celebrated, but also lamented, as it is shown to be imperilled by the hostile forces of the new century.

Martha Blum's second novel, The Apothecary (2006), continues the story of characters introduced in The Walnut Tree. We see wartime Ukraine and postwar Vienna from the perspective of Süssel's brother. Like Süssel, Felix and the other characters in this story are haunted by things they saw - and did - during the war.

In 1998 Martha Blum received a national award for Holocaust survivors who have contributed to the arts in Canada. She was awarded an honorary doctorate from the University of Saskatchewan in 2006.