This story of a family of Ukrainian Jews hiding in a cave during the Holocaust was inspired by actual events.
Told in the voice of an older woman looking back as she tells her daughter about her experiences, this is a carefully researched, often moving narrative of one family’s struggle and survival. Teenage Hanna’s family lived an integrated life in a shtetl in an area that was sometimes Polish, sometimes Austrian, and sometimes Ukrainian due to shifting borders. Hanna’s bucolic childhood involved attending school and helping her Christian neighbor decorate pysanky, traditional Easter eggs, while observing Jewish holidays and traditions at home. When Germany invades, the family finds themselves persecuted for their religion and eventually forced into hiding, along with other families, first in remote forest cabins and then for over a year in a series of caves with underground lakes. Hanna’s first-person narration has a nostalgic air, with often detailed descriptions that display the author’s research but detract from the story; at the same time, history is treated as personal, and the larger context of the Holocaust is only suggested. Despite these flaws, this is a moving story of survival and of the compassion of the Christian neighbor and forester who aided the families.
This peek into the minutiae of life in hiding is transformed from mundane to poignant by the extraordinary circumstances of time and place. (historical note) (Historical fiction. 12-15)