Book review: Novel testament to courage, family
March 16, 2017
‘We Were the Lucky Ones,’ by Georgia Hunter
When author Georgia Hunter was in high school, she was given an English assignment to dig up pieces of ancestral facts and information. For the first time, she learned that her grandfather's family had miraculously survived a war that annihilated more than 90 percent of Poland's 3 million Jews and all but 300 of the 30,000 Jews from her grandfather's town of Radon, Poland.
Twenty years later, Hunter visited Radon, Poland, and interviewed family members. The result is this story of survival.
The story began in pre-World War II Poland in the town of Radon. Sol and Nechuma Kurc, well-to-do Polish Jews, sent their five children to private academies to sidestep the undertones of anti-semitism. The close-knit family would gather at their parents’ home weekly. For the Kurcs, nothing was more important than family.
The vibrant life of the Kurcs drastically changed in 1939, when Germany invaded Poland. The family was torn apart and scattered in all directions as the Germans and Russians encroached on their land. The Jews lived in a state of perpetual pain, exhaustion and hunger. Their vitality was depleted by long days of forced labor, pathetic rations and the mental tricks they would play to ignore the daily horrors that surrounded them. Nevertheless, the greatest torment, the pain too strong to bear, was the uncertainty of the status and whereabouts of each family member.
Throughout the book, I had to keep reminding myself this was more than a novel; it was this family's life. This is what they endured: Their human dignity had been stripped away, and their strength, courage and fortitude barely kept them alive.
This book could have been six novels, one following the paths of each family member. What separates the stories are the diverse locations and political scenarios each family member found themselves in. The commonality in these stories are the fear, pain, starvation and courage, accompanied by a powerful will to one day be united as a whole family, once again. Their worlds were torn to shreds the day the Germans marched into Radon. Would their family ever come together as a cohesive whole?
This story is a testament to family, to resilience, to life. It is powerful. I cannot get it out of my mind.
Hunter's blog, weweretheluckyones.com, offers a glimpse into the extensive research she completed to unveil the travesty and survival of her family.
Virginia Denucci is a bookseller at Off the Beaten Path.
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