Rutland and Lipski’s book wins the Prime Minister’s Literary Award

November 9, 2016 by J-Wire Staff
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Let My People Go: The untold story of Australia and the Soviet Jews 1959–89 has been awarded a joint winner of the Prime Minister’s Literary Award  for History.

Sam Lipski and Suzanne Rutland Photo: Alex Huber [Moments]

Sam Lipski and Suzanne Rutland Photo: Alex Huber [Moments]

The book was written jointly by Sydney’s academic Professor Suzanne Rutland and Melbourne journalist Sam Lipski.

For 50 years, until the Berlin Wall fell in 1989, the Soviet Union ran a campaign of repression, imprisonment, political trials and terror against its 3 million Jews.  In Australia,  political leaders and the Jewish community contributed significantly to the international protest movement which eventually triumphed over Moscow’s tyranny and led to the modern Exodus of Soviet Jews to Israel and other countries.

Lipski and Rutland make this largely unknown Australian story come alive with a combination of passion, personal experience and ground-breaking research.

“The struggle for the freedom of Soviet Jewry was one of the most powerful displays of strength and solidarity by the world Jewish community … even those intimately familiar with the struggle will be surprised to discover in  Let My People Go how the Australian Jewish community and its leaders were among the  campaign’s initiators, and how they saw it through to its successful conclusion. This is a unique testament to how a small group can play a big role in history.” —Natan Sharansky, Chairman Jewish Agency for Israel, Prisoner of Zion (1977–86).

Professor Rutland who was awarded a Prime Minister’s Centre Fellowship for this project, told J-Wire: ” I am just so excited at the news. For me this is a fantastic result for what the judges described as ‘Rutland’s painstaking research’ which began in 1998 with my battle to get access to Isi Leibler’s ASIO file which I finally succeeded after nine months of perseverance. Then came the collaboration with Sam resulting in the final product.”

Co-author Sam Lipski added: ” Winning the Prime Minister’s Literary Award for Australian History with Suzanne Rutland has been overwhelming – all the more so for sharing it with Geoffrey Blainey, the doyen of Australian historians’

The Soviet Jewry campaign and Australia’s outstanding contribution to it was the defining story for our generation of Australian Jews.

For it to receive such recognition adds greatly to the privilege of writing it- in the hope that future generations will also read it.”

Sam Lipski accepted the award from Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Minister for the Arts Senator Mitch Fifield on behalf of his co-author Suzanne Rutland at a ceremony at the National Library of Australia, Canberra. Professor Rutland is currently overseas.

Senator James Paterson, Patron Senator for Melbourne Ports today extended warm congratulations to Sam Lipski .

“I’m very proud of Sam’s achievements and contribution to our nation’s arts.” Senator Paterson said.

He said: “Sam’s work covers a very important aspect of our history and I am pleased he has been recognised for his efforts.

As the joint winner of Australian History category, Mr Lipski  has been recognised for his contribution to our nation’s cultural and intellectual life, and will share a tax-free cash prize of $40,000.”

Winning entries were selected across six categories including fiction, poetry, non-fiction, Australian history, children’s and young adult literature.

The winners were drawn from a shortlist of 30 exceptional books by some of Australia’s most well regarded authors. The shortlist and winner recommendations were made by an expert panel of 12 judges.

The Prime Minister’s Literary Awards serve as a significant demonstration of the Australian Government’s support for the literary arts.

Former Australian prime minister John Howard called Lipski and Rutland’s work “an inspiring and fascinating story”.

Geoffrey Blainey’s “The Story of Australia’s People” shared the award.


One Response to “Rutland and Lipski’s book wins the Prime Minister’s Literary Award”
  1. Hilary Rubinstein says:

    A well-deserved recognition, both of the book, the subject matter, and the pivotal role of such tenacious fighters for Soviet Jewry as Isi Leibler. Mazal Tov, Suzanne and Sam.

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