Memories of My Life in a Polish Village

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

In this singular memoir, Toby Knobel Fluek shares her gifts as artist, storyteller, and survivor. Fluek re-creates not only her family but also an entire village and way of life. The setting is a farm in the rural village of Czernica, in eastern Poland. Fluek, her mother and father, two older sisters, and an older brother were one of only ten Jewish families in the village. Fluek provides a number of portraits, verbal and visual, of her neighbors, such as Wasyl, in his homemade and hand-sewn sheepskin coat, who liked to talk politics.

Other pictures of daily life and tradition unfold: threshing wheat with primitive tools similar to those used in biblical times; painting the earthen floor with yellow mud at springtime; the chest in the attic, which sheltered a large wooden box full of clothes from American relatives.

The rhythm of village life was violently disrupted by the outbreak of World War II. Czernica was occupied first by the Russians, then by the Germans. For almost a year, the family managed to escape Nazi raids. In 1942, however, they were removed with the other Jewish families to the Brody ghetto. During the first year of the ghetto’s existence, three-fourths of its population died from starvation and disease; instead of horses, men were forced to pull wagons of corpses. Fluek, a sister, and their mother eventually escaped. In the end, only Fluek and her mother were to survive the war. For a year, they lived fearfully as...

(The entire section is 407 words.)