The main character in this story is a Jewish girl named Alicia. When the bookstarts she is ten years old, she lives in the Polish town of Buczacz with her four brothers,Moshe, Zachary, Bunio, and Herzl, and her mother and father . The holocaust experiencebegan subtly at first when the Russians began to occupy Buczacz. When her brotherMoshe was killed at a ” Boys School” in Russia and her father was gathered up byGerman authorities, the reality of the whole situation quickly became very real.
Her fatherwas taken away shortly after the Russians had moved out and the Germans began tooccupy Buczacz. Once the Germans occupied, they moved the Jewish population ofBuczacz into mass ghettos. Alicia and the rest of her family had to share a house withseveral other families which had also been driven out of there homes. The only source ofincome in this situation was to sell things at the marketplace, and even there, Jews wereforbidden. Alicia went anyway and sold what she could for food and money.
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One day her brother Bunio disappeared from the ghetto. Alicia and her familyfound out later that he had been taken to a work camp, but that they could send foodpackages to him. Shortly after this, Alicia was taken into custody by German officials andput on a train to another work camp.
Alicia managed to escape from this train by jumpingthrough a small window. She found her way to a river which led her back to the ghetto. By this time several people in the ghetto had been feeling the effects of the impoverishedconditions. Starvation, Typhoid, and other diseases, were beginning to take its toll on thepeople who lived in the ghetto. Then one day, Alicia found out that her brother Bunio hadbeen killed in the work camp. A boy had escaped so they lined up all the boys and shotevery fourth one.
As time progressed, Alicia began assuming more responsibility for the daily tasks of the family such as going out and trading for more food in places other than themarketplace. While this was going on, Zachary and a few other boys from the ghetto hadbeen forming a sort of resistance. One day Alicia was informed that her brother had beenhanged. After Zacharys death, Alicia was befriended by a woman named Bella. She metmany good friends in the ghetto including a future friend as well as savior, Milek.Months later, Alicia and several other people were rounded up and sent to a prison inChortkov. Here the conditions were very poor. Every day more and more people weretaken out and shot.
On the inside of the cells it was a cesspool of germs and diseases. Every morning the jailkeepers would go around the cell and kick people to see if theywere still alive. One of these times Alicia was taken for dead and put onto a wagon withother bodies. The driver of the wagon found her, nursed her back to better health andthen brought her back to the ghetto.
During this time, before, and after she returned to the ghetto attempts to rid theghettos of Jews were called “actions”. To escape being caught by the German police whotook part in the actions, they built large bunkers to hide from their captors. After severalof these actions, the Buczacz ghetto had been emptied by more than half. At this point thetime came to move to a new ghetto.
Alicia had been in this new ghetto only a short time when another action occurred. This time Alicia was captured and brought to a mass grave with a multitude of otherJews. Just when Alicia was about to be shot Milek took a gun from one of the shootersand began shooting other officers.
Alicia took advantage of this opportunity, as she hadmany others, and ran for her life. She ran fast and far until she found herself coming into atown which was surrounded with tilled fields. She discovered she could work in exchangefor a small amount of food. She worked hard in these fields and was able to let hermother in Buczacz know that she was safe.Alicia was reunited with her mother and theyreturned to this community where they lived for about a year.
She also found out that heryoungest brother Herzl had been taken away and killed Alicia would work at these fieldsand get food, she would bring some back to her mother who, because of poor health, wasresting in seclusion most of the day.. One day they met a nice old man that was sort of anoutcast from the rest of the community. He let them stay with him and another Jewishfamily that he was taking care of in his shack. They stayed here during the winter whileAlicia still searched for food, in the process, making many friends.
News came one day that the Germans were beginning to fall back from theRussian fronts and Germanys grip on the Jews in Poland was weakening. This newsmade Alicia and her mother move away from the old man who helped them. Alicia and hermother had formed a very close friendship with the kindly man. When Alicia and hermother arrived in Buczacz they moved into a regular apartment and began to live asemi-normal life.It was not long after Alicia had moved back into Buczacz that the Germans tookover the town again. In this raid on the Jews, Alicias mother was killed by the Germans.
Alicia was taken to another prison where she would later be transported to another massgrave. While she was waiting, she devised a plan to escape the mass grave by runningdown a hillside and into a river. When they were lined up to be shot she ran to the river. She hid there all night and once again she had escaped the Germans. As she made her wayback, she became friends with a group Russian Jews who were fighting with the Russians. She even earned a medal from them because she had helped a number of them escape froma prison cell.
Her bravery was not overlooked. Returning to Buczacz she found that there wasnt much left for her there, so shemoved away with a person to a nearby town. She was in this town less than a few hourswhen her and her friend were taken into custody by the Russian police. What hadhappened was that her friend was suspected of selling things in the black market ( whichshe was ) and the police wanted to find out who was buying things from her. Over a spanof 8 months they were kept but finally they were released. They received a lot of moneyfrom people that had been saved by their withholding of evidence. Alicia and her friendtook this money and bought a train ticket to Lodz. They were stopped in Lvov becausethey went to get some tea while stopped at a station, but the train took off without themand they left all of their belongings on the train.
Next they boarded a train to Krakow,and parted ways there. In Krakow, Alicia was staying at a rather large house with anotherfamily. She built a sort of orphanage by gathering up homeless children from theneighborhood. She lived with this family for a long time, and during this time she learnedabout a way that she could go to Eretz Island, Israel where she could be safe. She left herorphanage and went on a long journey where she met many people that were like her, inthat she didnt like to see people suffer. Alicia made it to Israel but was taken by British border patrol officers to a jail onCypress for coming into the country illegally. She was then released from Cyprus.