Wednesday, April 12, 2017

We Were the Lucky Ones by Georgia Hunter

Reviewed by Brenda G.

While in her teens, Georgia Hunter learned her grandfather, his siblings, and her great- grandparents were Holocaust survivors. Against all odds in far-flung locations, this nuclear family of Polish Jews lived through Hitler’s worst. This book presents a fictionalized account of the trials endured by the family.

The story begins with Addy, given name, ironically, Adolf, working in France as an engineer and wondering should he go home. In 1939 as Hitler’s march through Europe gains strength, Addy muses about what might be happening in Radom, the Polish city where the Kurc family lives. When he attempts to acquire travel documents to Poland, he is denied and told of the dangers he would face, with “Jew” clearly stamped on his passport. A trip home would require travel through German-controlled territory. 

Chapter by chapter, the focus moves to one or more family members and chronicles the miseries they face and the horrors they witness.  The horrors of a packed railroad car, watching others die around them. Months in a Gestapo jail.  Deportation to Siberia from Soviet-controlled Poland.  Starvation.  A special offer of transportation that turns into a death train from which less than a handful of Polish Jews walk away, including Addy’s sister Mila and her daughter. An infant born in the Siberian winter whose eyes are frozen shut every morning. Entombment in the basement of a bombed out convent. Scurvy. Attempts to rescue extended family and in-laws who refuse to accept help in the face of certain death. Work in the Underground. Securing false papers and passing as non-Jewish Poles. Disappearances without explanation.  Harsh working conditions; harsher living conditions; while constantly subjected to the whims of military and political forces.

The book is well-written and researched. Members of the Kurc family are hard-working, intelligent, and resourceful. Despite this, they are unprepared for the horrors unleashed upon them, their neighbors, and Europe as a whole. This is truly a remarkable tale of survival.

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