Many years ago, when I lived in Cambridge, Massachusetts, a friend of mine introduced me to her mother—an elegant woman named Julia Kronhill, who told me her amazing story. She and her husband, Jacob, had left their home in Lublin, Poland, and crossed the border to Lithuania on September 6, 1939, just after WWII started. They lived in Vilna until January 1941 when, courtesy of Japanese diplomat Chiune Sugihara and his life-saving transit visas, they were able to travel across Russia to Vladivostok and then to Kobe, Japan. In September 1941, the Japanese transferred all nonresident aliens to Shanghai, where the two lived until the war ended. Then, with the help of the Joint Distribution Committee, they moved to Melbourne, Australia, where Julia raised two children—including my friend Irene Pletka, who was living in Brookline, Massachusetts, when I met her, shortly before Julia passed away.
As Julia told me her personal history, she also described to me a luscious raspberry tart that she remembered from growing up in Lublin. I wanted to taste it—immediately. A few days later, as I watched Julia carefully crafting the crust with her hands, patting a long thin strand of dough around the sides and filling it with pints of raspberries, then, with a pastry dough cutter, weaving a lattice crust on top.
A few years later, when I moved into my first house in Chevy Chase, Maryland, I inherited from the previous owner an entire backyard filled with wild raspberry bushes. Often anticipating the intense flavor of this dessert, I gently and patiently picked the raspberries, taking care not to bruise them as I put them one by one into a basket, collecting them for the filling, sweetened by the berries cooked down to their essence.
Whenever I make this amazing tart for family and friends, I like to tell of the luck of two people from Poland and the memory of a flavor that followed them halfway around the world.
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