Book Review: The Freedom Circus by Sue Smethurst

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Reviewed by Michelle Freckleton

Sue Smethurst is an award-winning writer/ journalist, who has worked in the media industry for over twenty years.


The Freedom Circus is a true story. 

It is the retelling of the author’s husband’s grandparents. Sue had heard stories over the years, but it wasn’t until she started delving deeper that this extraordinary journey unfolded.

The story begins in Warsaw, Poland in 1936.

A chance meeting between Mindla (pronounced Marnya) and Kubush Horowitz would begin a love story that would survive the harshest of circumstances, the second World War, and eventually bring them to ‘the lucky country’ (as Kubush would call it), Australia.

Mindla works in a tannery to help support her large family. Kubush is a clown working for Circus Staniewski. They are brought together after Mindla trips and Kubush happens to be nearby, coming to her aid.  They quickly fall in love and are married. Kubush is travelling with the circus when Germany begins its invasion of Poland. Mindla decides to take their young son and go to Kubush. Circumstances intervene and it is over three years before they will find each other again. Even when they are reunited, they are in for many more years of pain and suffering before they finally make it to Australia.

There were many moments that I had to remind myself that this was not a fictional story, that how they survived such traumatic events was a true testament to the human spirit. It shows the depths a parent would go to for their family.

There are also many moments that will bring you joy. The way that food brought the family together, I felt as if I were sitting at the table watching Mindla’s mother cooking with love, so that at the end of the day they could all gather together to share food, laughter and a sense of belonging.

It is important to know that they did get their happy ending, settling in Melbourne, Australia. They had three sons and grandchildren whom they adored. Kubush was lucky enough to audition for The Tarax Show on GTV 9 and worked for many years as Sloppo the clown (older readers may even remember him).

It is a story that is full of emotion, as well as humour and love. It will stay with me for a very long time. It is a story that needs to be told.

The Freedom Circus is available now.