We Were The Lucky Ones is a saga of familial love and hope in the face of terror and destruction.
What I liked: a Jewish family torn apart by World War II; their trials and tribulations; an almost global setting; familial love.
What I didn’t like: the fact that it truly happened (names were changed)
The Kurc family enjoys their life in pre-WWII Poland, celebrating their life, their religion, their talents, and their family. A relatively large family they revel in their successes and the pleasant aspects of life even as each of the children seek their place in life based on their own skills: Addy is a composer/musician, Genek is an attorney, Mila is married to a writer, Selim is a doctor, and Halina is a strong independent young woman finding her way in society. In 1939, when Hitler invades Poland, all of that changes. This story follows each family member, including parents Sol and Nechuma, as they strive to stay alive during the atrocities and horrors of Hitler’s pogroms, ghettos, and work camps. In the end what remains of the family comes together in the post war years and tries to begin life anew. Are they successful?
This story had my attention from the first page. Set in Poland the reader is given at first a glimpse of the peaceful life afforded to Polish Jews. Slowly, as things changed in Europe and Hitler’s army became more invasive, we follow each of the children as they make their way in a world filled with danger and certain death. The strength and resilience of the Polish people shines throughout this story. And regardless of how far away from home each of them is their foremost thoughts are of family. Each character is intimately portrayed, exposing not only their strengths but also their flaws.
We Were the Lucky Ones tells the unvarnished truth of atrocities committed in the name of the Third Reich. At times the despair becomes so great the reader will wonder when a character will die, for surely no one could survive under these conditions. Even at war’s end, we learn an important lesson: the war may be over for the governments involved but it would not soon be over for those who were persecuted. Hence, the migration to other more welcoming countries. Caution to the reader: have tissues on hand. You’ll need them throughout the book but most certainly for the reunion of a family torn apart.
This story is finely crafted, with depth and just enough history to keep the reader going. The stars of this book are the people (characters). Knowing that these people are symbolic of their real counterparts makes the story so much more rewarding. This reviewer, who counts among her ancestors several who died at Dachau, was riveted to the story.
Note: I won a copy of this book in a Goodreads Giveaway.
Rating: 5 stars