Publishing year: 2007
This is the story of Emma, a Jewish woman in Krakow during the Second World War.
Emma is married to Jacob, but they are soon gone different ways when Jacob, who is keen on politics, joins the resistance and leaves. Emma finds herself alone. The house where she has been living with her husband is taken over by some German dignitary, and when she goes to find her parents, she doesn’t find them. They have been taken to the ghetto, so she voluntarily goes there. Her parents live in extreme poverty like the rest of the Jews there, but Emma finds a reason to enjoy life there when she makes friends with Marta and she invites her to celebrate Sabbath with some other people her own age. There she meets Alex, and soon she realizes that everybody in the room belong to the resistance. Alex tells her he knows Jacob and even hands her a message from him. Then one night she’s awoken by one of Alex’s friends, and he helps her escape the ghetto and takes her to the house of Jacob’s aunt, Krysia. Krysia married Jacob’s uncle, but she’s a Catholic, something which didn’t feel right for Jacob’s parents, but she was eventually accepted back in the family. Krysia is now a widow, and when she and Emma talk, she tells her that she now has a new identity. She’ll be a gentile woman called Anna Lipowski, an orphan from Gdanks with one young brother, Lucasz, who is a boy Emma knew from witnessing the murder of a woman in the ghetto. Lucasz is the son of the woman and one of the most important rabbis in Krakow. I’m not sure why Emma was picked up to care for this boy, and why the resistance decided to save her. Was it because of Jacob? I’m not sure, but this is Emma’s new destiny, which she accepts guiltily.
Things become complicated when Krysia has a dinner in which she invites some Nazis. Krysia used to hold these dinners, and now she thinks she needs to carry on so that she can show that things are the same. At the dinner Emma gets to know Kommandant Richwalder, and she feels a sudden attraction. She wants to deny this, and even tries to avoid him, but it’s pointless since she finds herself sitting next to him. And then the Kommandant surprises her by offering her a job as her secretary. This is the last thing Emma wants to do, but she can’t refuse, especially when Krysia hints she needs to accept.
Interesting start. I can guess that life won’t be the same for Emma from now on, and I know that her heart is going to suffer. She’s about to face great danger, not just for her emotions but for her own safety.