Maciek’s boyhood in a small Polish city is idyllic. His father is a successful and respected physician, his grandfather a well-to-do landowner, his aunt Tania a surrogate for his dead mother. They all indulge the young boy as does the family maid, who willingly accepts Maciek’s precocious sexual investigations.
This pleasant existence is shattered by the beginning of World War II. When Poland is invaded by the Nazi war machine, Maciek’s father joins the army and disappears when the Polish forces ar overrun. Tania goes to work for the occupying German forces and her liaison with a friendly German civilian preserves the rest of the family of ra time. But Jews are being rounded up and sent away, and it appears that the Germans will create a ghetto in the small city. Reinhard, Tania’s protector, arranges for the remaining family to move to the larger city of Lwow. This helps briefly, but they are betrayed and Reinhard shoots Maciek’s grandmother and himself to forestall an even worse fate.
Tania, Maciek, and the grandfather manage to use false papers to reach Warsaw, where they survive most of the war by pretending not to be Jewish and by moving frequently. Tania and Maciek live with great caution, rehearsing their parts at night. In 1944, believing that the Russian army is on the verge of capturing Warsaw, Polish partisans attack the Germans. But the Russian advance stalls, the Germans bombard Warsaw, and the city disintegrates into chaos. Tania and Maciek, using...
(The entire section is 612 words.)