We Were the Lucky Ones is a work of fiction based loosely on the family of Georgia Hunter. The book is written in present tense with historical facts found at the ends of the chapters. Hunter did not realize she was part Jewish until she was in her teens. While the book is a novel, the story is based on her great grandparents and their five children. All of whom managed to survive the Holocaust.
The stories are told through the eyes of the siblings. Both the dialog and story lines are fictional. However, this is historical in nature and some of the events actually took place. Many of the family events have been retained through oral history and two members of the family, small children at the time, contributed first-hand knowledge of the family saga.
The book begins in 1939 in Paris, France. Addy is the middle child of Sol and Nechuma Kurc and is living away from the ancestral home of Radom, Poland. His mother writes in a letter that things in Radom are changing. She is warning him to stay away. Of course, this makes Addy want to return as soon as possible. Naturally, he wants to be with his parents and siblings. Events quickly unfold from there.
We Were the Lucky Ones follows the various members of the Kurc family through World War II. Although Addy escapes Europe early on, he serves in the French Army first. His path to safety in Brazil is not direct.
Their stories are fascinating. But, I am not sure where the line between fiction and fact is drawn. Much like many historical novels the events of the past are brought to life. Hunter involves the reader in each of the siblings’ plights by dividing the book among the five. So the point of view changes from chapter to chapter. Instead of a book that feels disjointed, the result is an edge of your seat reading.
The various family members are separated by events of the war. Many extended family members and in-laws do not survive Hitler’s purge. Each story is harrowing. It is amazing the Kurc’s and their five children survive the war. They truly were among the lucky even though many scars were carried on past the war.
Many books cover World War II. We Were the Lucky Ones paints a startling picture of what it took to survive the type of persecution the millions of Jews faced. The perseverance of the characters is inspiring. Thus, the novel serves as a testament to the survivors.
Hunter paints a realistic picture of what the Jewish people of Poland faced after Hitler invaded the country. While the characters are based on her family, this is a novel. Evidently, gaps in the oral history handed down to her were filled as accurately as possible. Hunter explains in her afterword her research methodology. So the accounting is historically sound. Just the dialog and the point of view of the family members come from her imagination.
I thoroughly enjoyed We Were the Lucky Ones. For the Kurc family to all survive the holocaust is remarkable. A fact that I am sure all their descendants appreciate. Georgia Hunter was correct, this was a story that needed sharing.
Find a copy of We Were the Lucky Ones. It is a must read. Both World War II buffs and individuals just looking for a good book will enjoy this story.