By: Georgia Hunter
Published Year: 2017
Summary (Provided by Goodreads): An extraordinary, propulsive novel based on the true story of a family of Polish Jews who are separated at the start of the Second World War, determined to survive and to reunite.
It is the spring of 1939 and three generations of the Kurc family are doing their best to live normal lives, even as the shadow of war grows closer. The talk around the family Seder table is of new babies and budding romance, not of the increasing hardships threatening Jews in their hometown of Radom, Poland. But soon the horrors overtaking Europe will become inescapable and the Kurcs will be flung to the far corners of the world, each desperately trying to navigate his or her own path to safety.
As one sibling is forced into exile, another attempts to flee the continent, while others struggle to escape certain death, either by working grueling hours on empty stomachs in the factories of the ghetto or by hiding as gentiles in plain sight. Driven by an unwavering will to survive and by the fear that they may never see one another again, the Kurcs must rely on hope, ingenuity, and inner strength to persevere.
A novel of breathtaking sweep and scope that spans five continents and six years and transports readers from the jazz clubs of Paris to Krakow's most brutal prison to the ports of Northern Africa and the farthest reaches of the Siberian gulag, We Were the Lucky Ones demonstrates how in the face of the twentieth century's darkest moment, the human spirit can find a way to survive, and even triumph.
This book popped up on my radar based on the cover. I’m pretty sure it showed up on Goodreads, so obviously it made a good first impression! I was suckered in by the summary, as I definitely enjoy historical fiction set in the WW2 era. I debated saving this for a book club choice, but ultimately decided it would be more enjoyed by me than by the rest of my book club. When I had an urge to read something heavy/serious recently, I knew his was my choice.
What I thought
This book was so good!
Georgia Hunter, the author, discovered that her grandpa was a Holocaust survivor with a very unique story. After talking to family members and learning more, she decided to write a book about her family’s history and We Were the Lucky Ones was born. This book follows the Kurc family through the Holocaust. The majority of the Kurc’s lived in Poland when the war started, with Addy living in France. This story chronicles their journeys throughout the war and all of the struggles they faced.
Since the title itself is a bit of a spoiler, I don’t think I’m technically spoiling anything by saying that everyone survives. It was interesting to read a book about the Holocaust where the main characters didn’t end up dead. I am baffled that this entire family, truly, survived!
My favorite element of this story was that each family member had their own chapters. It was fascinating to read all of the different paths that Jews took during the war. Addy attempts to flee Europe, Genck gets sent to Siberia, Mila and their parents get stuck in the ghetto and I can’t even remember everyone else’s stories and names off the top of my head. I feel like a lot of Jewish WW2 stories follow running away, hiding, and being sent to camps. While I have no issue with this, as I think these are important stories to tell, I think it’s important to tell of the other paths too.
At times, it was a bit frustrating dealing with all of the different characters and story lines, but in the end it was worth it. Following the ups and downs of each family member made a lot of WW2 elements that are lesser known feel real. It helped remind me of everything that the Jewish people struggled with.
At the same time, I had no idea that Poland was so devastated by the war. So many stories that I’ve heard about have either been in Germany or American, with a few being in France, but I had not read any that took place in Poland. I think it is so important that these stories continue to be told and that we learn everyone’s history. It is the only way that we can learn from it, and considering the turmoil we are currently going through as a country, it is extremely important to remember now.