Wednesday, March 22, 2017

A Story Writ Large

I came across this page on JewishGen while doing some research on Radom, Poland, in an effort to complete a book on my family history - my grandfather and his siblings grew up in Radom, on a street called Malczewskego.  I'm wondering if you might have a moment to help me better understand the city, especially from a visual perspective.  

So began an email I received three years ago requesting information on Radom, Poland, one of my ancestral towns. The site she was referencing was a website called a Kehilalink on Radom, Poland that I created for Kehilalink means community and this is a virtual community for those who are researching their Jewish family roots from that town.  While the website was  a lot of work to set up, the payoff comes when I hear from people around the world who are traveling there or in some cases writing a book which features Radom. This email was from Georgia Hunter, a writer, who happened to be writing a book about her family's story which began in Radom.

She was intrigued by a photograph on the site and was curious about what kind of trees were in it. As luck would have it, I received the email as I was having lunch with a good friend of mine who is a survivor from that town.She quickly reached into her memory and reported that they were chestnut trees. I responded to Georgia and put her in direct contact with my friend Dora as well as with Jakub, a friend in Radom who knows its history well and ultimately showed her around when she visited. 

She was also tickled to discover an ad for her grandparents' store with its address. I remembered the painstaking process of cropping each image from an old phone book and linking each one to my listing of names. Her delight underscored why I made that effort. I, too, am excited when names suddenly become real people.

Well now I've just finished her book and I am doubly delighted that I could play any small part in her extraordinary effort. Her book is We Were the Lucky Ones and it traces her family members from Radom across the world during the war as they each seek their path to survival. So many stories are told within one family-from the Radom ghetto, to digging a grave in the killing fields, to Lviv under both German and Soviet control, Warsaw during its destruction, hiding as Christians with false papers, to the notorious Nazi prison in Krakow, shipped to the forests of Siberia to enlisting in the Polish army and serving in a famous battle in Italy. A child is hidden by nuns and parents hidden behind a false wall in a farmhouse outside Warsaw. This is a story writ large, filled with risk and answered with bravery, always surrounded with a deep love of family. The family is flung apart by war, occasionally reassembling in pieces, but often losing family members and uncertain of their survival for years. Ultimately the Red Cross plays an important role in reuniting them and when that happens you will share their tears of joy even though as a reader you have a peek behind the scenes.

This offered an added resonance because of my familiarity with the city. It is rare that I can so easily picture a city as history unfolds within it.  This is a debut book for Georgia and obviously an important story she needed to tell. Her skills as a writer and a compelling story make this a book well worth reading regardless of whether whether you have ties to Radom and a must read if you do. 


  1. Susan, thanks so much for posting this and also for sharing your Radom knowledge and contacts. I am the daughter of the character "Addy" in "We Were the Lucky Ones" - you can imagine what it means to me and to my cousins and extended family to have this account in writing.

    1. Isabelle, I'm delighted to hear from you and I can imagine how important it is to you to have this story told, and told so beautifully. Georgia did an amazing job and I am grateful to have the opportunity to enjoy the result of her work.

  2. What a treat to see this post in my inbox yesterday! Thanks for posting and again for being so quick and willing to help me in my research - you were my link to Radom, to Dora, and to Jakub - three of my most precious resources! Love hearing that you enjoyed the book. Hopefully the Polish edition (due out this Fall) can live someday at the Resursa :)