An impressionistic memoir of a Polish Jewish girl’s survival hiding as a Gentile in Nazi-occupied Poland.
What lifts this beautifully understated narrative above many other admirable efforts are Frankel’s gift for visceral detail and trained eye as a novelist. Smoothly translated from the Hebrew by Silverston, this memoir by the prolific children’s author and illustrator begins with one traumatic moment—one of many—in her early life. Around the age of 7, Frankel, nee Goldman, was thrust back into the care of her parents, who were hiding in a secret room in Lvov next to a sympathetic Polish carpenter and alcoholic, Juzef Juzak. The Lvov Ghetto had been liquidated in June 1943; the lucky few, like Frankel, had been fobbed off on opportunistic Poles like the cunning Hania Seremet, who took the Goldmans’ money and the mother’s gold teeth to smuggle their only daughter out of the ghetto to Seremet’s parents’ farm in Marcinkowice. Meanwhile, Frankel’s parents, who were well-meaning communists, had earned the respect of Juzak and were harbored in safety, as long as the “girl” did not come, too. The memoir moves with mannerist irony through this shattering time, and the author uses repetitive, obsessive detail to enforce the chilling effect—e.g., about the animals at the farm, the mice and the lice in the hideaway with her parents, and the stories she had to hear but did not want to hear, ending always in the depressing refrain: “That’s what my mother told me, and told me, and told me.” There is almost no other way to tell this powerful story, as the family waited for the Red Army to liberate them from the Nazis and then later had to flee Russian anti-Semitism.
A truly moving and bravely rendered memoir.