“Framing a Life”

When the going gets tough, the tough build a house.  Or at least that’s what Roberta Kuriloff decided to do when her life felt like it was falling apart.  She talks to Fiction Editor Yona Zeldis McDonough about Framing A Life (She Writes Press, $17.95) and the true meaning of home. 

YZM: Let’s talk about the metaphor of building; why do you choose it? 

RSK: The building of the house became a metaphor for my journey and search for wholeness. It was the physical manifestation of finding soul, my essence, and being able to share with others.

YZM:  How did being an orphan shape your life? 

RSK:  It made me strong. At times I had to be tough. I dreamed of being Superman’s daughter flying above the earth to save the world’s disenfranchised children, or being the Pied Piper, leading the other kids back to their families. My work as an attorney later in life centered on families in emotional and financial crisis. It also allowed me to be a Hospice patient-volunteer as well as bereavement workshop facilitator.

YZM: You make connections between your Jewish roots and the Kabbalah, and Buddhism; how were these three things connected in your life? 

RSK: To help me survive my life in an orphanage, somehow I knew I needed support. In the orphanage we attended religious classes, and I learned about my Jewish roots, as well as my father’s family’s hard and frightening life in the Ukraine, as I shared in my memoir. Later in life, especially after the death of my partner, which is in my memoir, I discovered Kabbalah, as well as Buddhism, and they helped center me both in my understanding of my religion, and the connections between all religions.

YZM: What about the idea of reincarnation, which is not at all Jewish?

RSK: True, reincarnation is not in most Jewish readings and beliefs.  But I have moved on in understanding reincarnation beyond Jewish writings. However, there are those Jewish writers who do believe and have written about it.  Also, I found books by Dr. Ian Stevenson who has written about reincarnation, including “Children who Remember Past Lives.”

YZM: What did the word home mean to you in the past? Has its meaning changed and if so, how? 

RSK: “Framing a Life” is about the construction and union of both an inner and outer life. We cannot control all that happens to us, but we can choose how we react to those struggles. My motivation for writing my memoir was to share with others how we can look at life, the glass half-empty or half-full, and find peace in the efforts to become ourselves. I didn’t understand this when I was a young girl living in an orphanage, but there was something in me that pushed me to survive by believing in the positive, riding into the sunrise, not the sunset. That is my story.