Greg Archer, best-selling author, entertainment columnist, book editor and critic, yoga instructor and literary icon, will present his memoir, “Grace Revealed,” at 1 p.m., Feb. 15 at the Desert Hot Springs Library.
Archer’s main job is interviewing Hollywood celebrities and television personalities. His articles have appeared in numerous papers and magazines, and he has received many honors and award for his writing. A bit intimidated, I went into this interview thinking: “Can I really do this?” But Archer’s relaxed manner and sense of humor immediately put me at ease, and I was riveted to his every spoken word.
“Grace Revealed” is both a memoir and a family history of one of the most horrendous events in the world. It covers the little-known truth about World War II when Stalin decided to take over Poland and deported more than two million Polish citizens to Siberia and later Africa.
Archer grew up in a Polish immigrant family in Chicago. Even as a little boy he remembers hearing stories about the war as his fun-loving and boisterous relatives discussed their childhood over a glass of vodka, Polish kielbasa and potato pierogi. As a teenager he had the usual menial jobs, but he always loved writing.
He decided to go to Arizona State University and study journalism. He had relatives in Phoenix who also spoke of their experiences in WWII. It became evident these were “signs” for him to document the history of his family and the Polish people who were part of this atrocity.
Several jobs later, Archer became the chief editor of a prominent weekly magazine which led him to interviewing movie stars. He was still procrastinating over writing about the family when a glass framed picture of his grandparents miraculously fell off a shelf and shattered. This happened while he was interviewing Ewan McGregor of “Star Wars” fame. Archer asked Ewan if he had any advice about this sign.
McGregor replied: “The people you love and respect are supposedly advising you by example. Look at your past. You must do it.”
Soon after the frame incident, Archer received a floppy disk from his uncle recounting his his childhood memories of the mass deportation of his family from the farm in Poland. This was the final sign he needed.
“Grace Revealed” was published in 2015 after 10 years of research. During this time Archer traveled to Poland and parts of Ukraine, tracing his family’s’ origins from the farm to their capture and uncovering the terrible conditions of their long train ride to Siberia, starvation, work camps and eventually Africa.
The book was released on the 75th anniversary of WWII. Archer was in Chicago to launch the book at various literary events. He recounts that many elders who attended had lived through this time in history and were able to share and be involved in the discussions.
I asked Archer how his book reflects what is happening in the world today. He said: “It is a reminder to be vigilant. We must ensure freedom.”
Sally Hedberg is the curator of the Friends of the DHS Library Author Series.
IF YOU GO: Feb. 15, 1 p.m. Community Room, Desert Hot Spring Library, 14-380 Palm Drive, Desert Hot Springs. Free. (925) 788-9862