A book has just come out about survival in the countryside near my ancestral shtetl of Zurawno (the w is pronounced as if a v, and the z is soft, like zhe – but we don’t really have that sound in English). The book is called The Fields of Ukraine: A 17-Year-Old’s Survival of Nazi Occupation/The Story of Yosef Laufer – written by Haim Tal (translated from Hebrew). Please check out the Web site.
Interestingly (or not), we’ve always thought of Zurawno as Polish. My parents, who grew up there before World War II, were Polish speakers. What was once Eastern Galicia under the Austrian Empire, became part of the Polish republic between the world wars, was seized by the USSR in 1939, by Nazi Germany in 1941 and then reincorporated into the Soviet republic of Ukraine. It is now part of the independent state of Ukraine and virtually devoid of Jews.
This is my sister Joan’s blurb on the book: “You won’t be able to put down this almost-unbelievable story of how 17-year-old Yosef Laufer and his father, Kalman, survived the Nazi occupation. Haim Tal masterfully fleshed out Yosef’s diary, which attests to the strength of the human spirit: ‘to carry on as long as there was a breath of life in us was the secret weapon that kept us alive.’ At the same time, Tal details the end to the once-thriving Jewish community of Zurawno, documenting one more tragedy of the Holocaust.” – Joan Seliger Sidney, Ph.D., Writer-in-Residence, University of Connecticut Center for Judaic Studies and Contemporary Jewish Life.