by Mala Kacenberg
‘The incredible true story of survival in the shadow of the Holocaust’ announces the blurb on the book cover. Mala is finally telling the story of her young life, and it is both harrowing and heart-warming.
She grew up as a Jew in the Polish village of Tarnogrod, along with her brother and sisters. After Germany invaded Poland, Mala and her family struggled to find food and she was no longer allowed to go to school. Mala didn’t play by the Nazi rules and became adept at sneaking out of the village, always on the lookout for food for her family. Her older brother was shot, her parents and younger sisters were deported to a camp, and so she was left to fend for herself with just her cat for company.
The cat was both her beloved companion and, it seemed, her guardian angel. Mala tells us about sleeping in the forest, coming across rebels and German soldiers, as well as kind and generous locals who took her in. Mala was clever enough to pretend to be a Christian and got sent to Germany to work as a servant in a large house/restaurant, which was where she was when the war ended. She ended up in London after the war where she married and ran a B&B.
This is an interesting read and at times I almost wondered whether it was aimed at younger readers as there is an honesty and simplicity to the writing but, of course, the content isn’t suitable for children. This is another timely reminder that we must always remember the atrocities of war.