Written By: J.L. Witterick
Published By: Putnam Adult an imprint of Penguin Publishing September 5, 2013
Length: 208 pages
Source: E galley via Edelweiss from Publisher
This small but important book is the story of two women, mother and daughter who are living in Sokal Poland when the Nazis invade. Franciszka and Helena are compassionate and concerned when they see what is happening to all the Jews in Poland. Without telling Helena, Franciszka begins hiding two families, one in their pigsy out back, one in a quickly dug cellar under their floor. She also hides a German soldier in the attic.
The book is written in chapters by the different voices of Helena and the voices of the people hidden in the house. Each story is unique and heart breaking. Helena is young and falls in love with a wonderful man who also owns a business where she works. His father calls him home to Germany as the war heats up, but he doesn’t leave Helena’s heart. He is a good man.
The voices of the groups in refuge in Franciszka’s home give the reader a view of the different ways each person came to needing to hide. A man with his wife and sister in law and son. They were unable to save their infant son who might give their hiding away. A doctor and his wife and son, the doctor who believed his position would save him, sadly he was wrong.
I’ve always been captivated by stories of WWII, those of survivors and the struggles that so many people had. The risks that good people took in order to save innocent victims of birth and heritage. The genocide of so many Jews never ceases to amaze, shock, cause me to shudder with sadness. The voices in this book were very powerful.
A fact about the real women in this story had a chilling impact on me as I began this book:
This book was inspired by the true story of Franciszka Halamajowa, who, with her daughter, saved the lives of fifteen Jews in Poland during the Second World War. She also hid a young German soldier in her attic at the same time. Before the war, there were six thousand Jews in Sokal, Poland. Only thirty survived the war and half of those did so because of Franciszka.
I’ve given this book 5 out of 5 stars, and I highly recommend. Thanks to Lydia Hirt and Mary Stone at Putnam for helping me read this book prior to it’s publication date. They were both right about how I’d be touched.
This is the author’s first book, Jenny, J.L. Witterick has fictionalized a harrowing and beautiful story of human kindness.