Tag Archives: Poland

World on Fire Character Review: Grzegorz Tomaszeski

*For the foreseeable future, some Character Review posts may not be published every Thursday as they have in the past.

*Warning: This post contains spoilers about the characters from the television series World on Fire. Read at your own risk if you have not watched the show.

There is something to be said about a well written, human character. They leap off the page and speak to us as if they were right in front of us, as flesh and blood human beings, instead of fictional creations. When facing an invading army, one usually has two choices: give into what seems to be inevitable or fight for your family, your home, and your nation. On World on Fire, Grzegorz Tomaszeski (Mateusz Więcławek) is introduced to the audience as a young man who wants his father’s approval. He will soon earn in a way that will forever change the course of his life.

When the Germans invade Poland, Grzegorz joins his father and other men at Danzig to prevent the Nazis from entering the country. Their attempts, as history tell us, is not a success. After watching his father being killed by German soldiers, Grzegorz quickly learns about the harsh nature of war. Finding a father figure in fellow fighter Konrad, they plan to get out of Poland and Europe in general. But that journey will be far from easy and they can only pray that they survive.

To sum it up: War has a way of forcing us to grow up quickly as few things can. Grzegorz’s time as young man ignorant of the world around him ends in Danzig. Now fully understanding what he must do, he knows that he has no choice. It is one of those truths about being an adult that can only be learned the hard way.

Which is why he is a memorable character.

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World on Fire Character Review: Jan Tomaszeski

*For the foreseeable future, some Character Review posts may not be published every Thursday as they have in the past.

*Warning: This post contains spoilers about the characters from the television series World on Fire. Read at your own risk if you have not watched the show.

There is something to be said about a well written, human character. They leap off the page and speak to us as if they were right in front of us, as flesh and blood human beings, instead of fictional creations. When one’s country goes to war, no one is immune from it’s cold touch. On World on Fire, Jan Tomaszeski (Eryk Biedunkiewicz) is the youngest of three children.

His life is relatively normal, until the Nazis invade Poland. With his father, older brother Grzegorz (Mateusz Wieclawek), and older sister Kasia (Zofia Wichlacz) fighting for their country, Jan is sent to England with his brother-in-law, Harry Chase (Jonah Hauer-King). Left with Robina (Lesley Manville), Harry’s domineering mother, he is a stranger in a strange land. Clinging to the memories of his family and the hope that they are still alive, Jan is faced with a challenge that only occurs during war time.

Children, we are told, are resilient. They have the ability to bounce back emotionally and psychologically faster than adults. But that does not mean that the scars of the experience completely disappear. Though Jan is still quite young, there is something in him that keeps him going. Which I happen to think is an inspiration to us all, regardless of age.

Which is why he is a memorable character.

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World on Fire Character Review: Kasia Tomaszeski

*For the foreseeable future, some Character Review posts may not be published every Thursday as they have in the past.

*Warning: This post contains spoilers about the characters from the television series World on Fire. Read at your own risk if you have not watched the show.

There is something to be said about a well written, human character. They leap off the page and speak to us as if they were right in front of us, as flesh and blood human beings, instead of fictional creations. War changes our fate like nothing else can. Forced to make decisions that would never even be considered in peacetime, we know that the chance of not surviving is high. In World on Fire, Kasia Tomaszeski (Zofia Wichłacz) is a young woman without a care in the world. Working as a waitress and living in Warsaw with her family, she is also in love with Harry Chase (Jonah Hauer-King), an English translator who is working in the city.

Then the Germans invade and her world is forever changed. When her father and brother, Grzegorz (Mateusz Wieclawek) join the Polish army, Kasia has two excruciating choices. Now married to Harry, she can go with him to England, not knowing his complicated love life. Or, she can stay and fight for her country.

Choosing to join the Polish Underground, Kasia sends her little brother to England in her stead. Driven by her mother’s murder, she knows that she could be betrayed, captured, tortured, and killed at any moment. But it is a risk that must be taken to free Poland. When we last see Kasia, she is reunited with Harry, but they are surrounded by German soldiers, their fate unknown.

To sum it up: The decisions Kasia makes are far from easy. The consequences, whatever they maybe, are at best, dangerous, and at worst, deadly. But for her it is the only choice. For her family, for her country, and most of all, for herself.

Which is why she is a memorable character.

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The Light in Hidden Places Book Review

Hate can be powerful. But, so is love.

The Light in Hidden Places, by Sharon Cameron was published earlier this year. The novel tells the story of Stefania Podgórska, a Polish-Catholic teenager who saved the lives of thirteen Jews during World War II.

In 1943, Stefania is working for the Diamants, a Jewish family who owns a grocery store in Przemyśl, a small town in Poland. Over the previous four years, she has become like family to her employers. That relationship includes a secret engagement to one of their sons.

Then the Germans invade and everything changes. The Diamants are forced into the ghetto with thousands of other Jewish residents from the area. Now Stefania is on her own with the responsibility of taking care of her younger sister. A knock on the door reveals that Max, one of the Diamant’s sons is alive. He is the first of thirteen Jews that the the sisters will hide.

As the war progresses, the danger increases. Anyone found hiding Jews will be executed. The danger grows exponentially when Stefania is forced to house German soldiers. Up to this point, she has been forced to make decisions that are painful and difficult. The final decision will be the most painful and difficult to make.

I loved this book. It was well written, gripping, and a wonderful reminder that love can still exist when hate takes over. On a personal note, I was touched by the book because it hit close to home. Przemyśl is close to Dobromil, the shtetl that my mother’s maternal line called home for generations.

I absolutely recommend it.

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I Agree With Eliezer Sherbatov

For most of the world, Auschwitz is the most well known of the Nazi death camps. Millions of people were starved, tortured, and murdered simply because of who they were.

But the residents this unfortunately infamous town know it as Oswiecim.

Recently, Israeli Ice Hockey star Eliezer Sherbatov signed on to play for Unia Oswiecim. Unia Oswiecim is the local hockey team for Osweicim. The reaction to his decision was both positive and negative, depending upon who one spoke to.

Defending his choice, Sherbatov stated the following:

“I tell them, what happened 80 years ago will never be forgotten. That’s why, 80 years later, I want to show young people that they should be proud of their heritage and that now anything is possible.”

I agree with him. Though I fully understand the criticism, I feel like this is a sign of hope and the ability to triumph over tragedy. While the we must never forget what happened with the borders of the death camp, we must also live. The fact that the Jews and Judaism is alive and thriving nearly 100 years later is sweet revenge on it’s own.

While we cannot go back in time and change history, we can remember those who were taken from us. Eliezer Sherbatov joining Unia Oswiecim is in itself a memorial to those who were murdered and a reminder that love and humanity still exist.

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The Yellow Bird Sings: A Novel Book Review

The bond between a mother and her child is powerful. In times of war, what will a mother to do protect her child?

The Yellow Bird Sings: A Novel was published last week.

Written by Jennifer Rosner, the novel is set in Poland during World War II. Róza and her 5-year-old daughter, Shira, are hiding in a barn owned by their Christian neighbors. Her husband, parents and the rest of the town’s Jews have all disappeared. To keep her daughter quiet and calm, Róza tells her the story of a yellow bird. The story works, but not forever.

Soon, Róza must make a choice. Keep Shira with her or send her away with strangers to give her a chance to survive.

This book hits all of the emotional and narrative points that is standard for the genre. However, it did not tough me in a way that other books in the genre do. I wanted to feel the tension as to whether both characters would survive and find their way back to each other. Unfortunately, I did not.

Do I recommend it? Maybe.

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Thoughts On Poland’s New Holocaust Law

Of the six million Jews who were murdered in the Holocaust, 3 million of them were Polish.

Recently, Poland’s President, Andrzej Duda announced that he would sign the new law that makes it illegal to blame the country from the loss of life and destruction caused by Nazi Germany during World War II. It goes without saying that the law acquits the Polish nation of any guilt that they are part of the reasons that 3 million Polish Jews and 1.9 Poles who were not Jewish were murdered.

I am a Jewish woman of Eastern European descent. Poland is in my blood and my bones. My mother’s maternal grandparent’s emigrated from Poland during the early part of the 20th century. They left family behind who were murdered simply because they were Jewish.

It’s an irrefutable fact that Poland suffered under the Nazi invasion. It is also an irrefutable fact that many non-Jewish Poles tried to help their Jewish neighbors, knowing full well that they were putting their lives and the lives of their families on the line. However, there were also many Poles who either silently supported the Nazis by saying nothing or stepped up and did the Nazis dirty work for them.

As an American, I cannot dictate how another country’s leadership chooses to govern. However, this particular law does not feel right and feels like it spits on the graves of millions of innocents who were killed merely for being who they are.

 

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Three Minutes in Poland Book Review

Glenn Kurtz had what many would consider a normal childhood. The grandson of Eastern European Jewish immigrants, he grew up in the security of post World War II America.

In 1938, Glenn’s paternal grandparents, David and Liza Kurtz embarked on a grand tour of Europe with their friends. Part of their trip included visiting the shtetl’s that their families called home for generations. They documented their trip on film. Years later, Glenn discovered the film in his parent’s Florida home. Not knowing the treasure he possessed, Glenn donated the film to the Holocaust Museum.

Several years later, he receives a very interesting telephone call. The woman on the other end of the telephone explains that one of the young boys whose image was captured in the film is her 86 year old grandfather. Maurice Chandler was given them name of Moszek Tuchendler at his birth. Mr. Chandler originated from Nasielsk, Poland, the town that Glenn’s grandparents stopped at during their trip. Mr. Chandler was the only one of his family to survive the war.

Glenn Kurtz’s new memoir, Three Minutes In Poland: Discovering A Lost World In A 1938 Family Film. The book follows Glenn as he meets survivors from Nasielsk and tries to piece together fragments of a world that no longer exists.

I loved this book. It drew me in immediately. Like Mr. Kurtz, I have familial origins in Eastern Europe. Unfortunately, due to time and the lack of information, many of us know only bits and pieces about lives our ancestors lived before World War II.  I was drawn into his quest to find out more about Mr. Chandler, his fellow survivors and the lives they lived before it was brutally ripped from beneath their feet.

I absolutely recommend this book.

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