The book is split into three different sections:
The first part of the book is about her childhood, which was a happy time in her life full friends, some were Ukrainian, Jewish or Polish (though she mentions that her Jewish friends would tease the “Pole”). She is able to vividly remember interactions with friends and their families, including the social and material conditions of their lives. We get an intricate and detailed description of Ukrainian, Jewish and polish family life. She recalls wanting to go to a Catholic church and questioning why she was a Jew. There are memories of many of her friends in striking detail — including some of the smells from her childhood! Throughout the book there is over 200 photos taken by her dad, who was a professional photographer. She writes about how they dressed, what they ate, what their attitude towards others was, and above all, towards God. Krystyna Carmi’s childhood was full of happy moments — that is until WWII.
The second part is about her life as a Jew during World War Two. There is a striking difference between the first two sections. The first being happy and peaceful times full of love and friendship. The second full of fear, hunger, hardships and the hatred of those around them. The first days of war brought overall fear and panic, the entrance of Red Army soldiers to Obertyn, the arrest of Polish patriots, liquidation of Jewish shops, the gradual growth into a more difficult reality of occupation, the Hungarian army in Obertyn, Jews murdered by Ukrainians in the local towns, incredible photos of the members of the Jewish community, and drowning in the Dniester by Ukrainians. However, the worst was still ahead… first the Germans, and then the Kołomyja ghetto. She was with her parents, maternal and paternal grandfathers. People died in the ghetto because of hunger and physical exhaustion – then their bodies were collected on a platform. These deaths did not escape the attention of a sensitive and suffering girl, who was aged well before her time.
The third part of the book is about their life after the war. She eventually returned from the ghetto with her parents, and escaped from Obertyn. This was followed by her sisters’ death and her parents’ death. Then there was the hiding, hunger, thirst, fear for life, and then indifference as time goes by because life is hard.
When I started reading this book, I was skeptical. A memoire….BUT – she has a magical way of writing that makes this book extremely interesting. I found myself hooked on the book and wanting to stay up all night reading when I REALLY should have been reading. A wonderful story that everyone should read.