This is Krystyna Chiger’s memoir of her childhood during the Holocaust. A Polish Jew, her family was forced to hide from the Nazis lest they be exterminated during the “cleansing” of the town of Lvov. Though they were able to survive longer than many Jews, through her father’s ingenuity and sometimes sheer luck, they were eventually forced into the sewers underneath the city. There, along with a dozen or so other Jewish people, they hid for fourteen months, until the Russian army liberated the city.
I found this story more interesting than a lot of Holocaust memoirs out there. Of course, what each person who survived the Holocaust went through was tragic and horrifying, but Chiger has a way of writing that instantly draws you in. Apparently she pieced together the narrative of their time in the ghetto and the sewer based on her own memories and her father’s diary. She therefore has the perspective not just of a seven-year-old child, but of a grown man, as well as her family’s other memories, and her own, changing perspective as she grew up. She is able to see the more horrifying events in the sewer not through her immature memories, but through several different viewpoints, all molded together into one coherent recollection.
It could be repetitive at times, and Chiger tended to spoil the end of her stories before she began them (you’ll know exactly who survives and why, and what miraculous events are coming up, early in the story), but there was always something interesting on the next page. Chiger was very courageous, and her father was a real hero; he was a remarkable man.