An extraordinary debut novel, drawn from author’s family history of survival in the Nazi Holocaust.
14 February 2017 / Hardback / Allison & Busby / £14.99 / fiction
‘By the end of the Holocaust, 90 per cent of Poland’s three million Jews were annihilated; of the more than 30,000 Jews who lived in Radom, fewer than 300 survived.’
The Kurc family shouldn’t have survived the Holocaust. In the spring of 1939 three generations are living relatively normal lives in Poland, despite the hardships Jews face. When war breaks out and the family is cast to the wind, the five Kurc siblings do everything they can to find their way through a devastated continent to freedom.
Addy, a musician, charms his way into possession of a Brazilian visa and into the first class piano lounge on a ship full of refugees bound for Rio; Jakob marries the love of his life in an abandoned house to a soundtrack of air sirens; Mila hides her daughter in a Catholic convent outside of Warsaw, only to return weeks later to find the convent in ruins; Genek endures a brutal winter in a Siberian gulag before embarking with his wife and newborn son on a yearlong exodus through Persia to fight for the Allies; and Halina attempts to flee over the Austrian Alps on foot – while pregnant. All this, across continents and often in ignorance as to the fate of the rest of their family, while the wheels of war turn.
We Were the Lucky Ones is a profoundly moving and memorable novel, and a gripping tale of bravery, based on the author’s family experiences. It takes you on a journey through unimaginable darkness to a place of hope/
When Georgia Hunter was fifteen years old, she learned that she came from a family of Holocaust survivors. We Were the Lucky Ones was born of her quest to uncover her family’s staggering history. She lives in Connecticut, USA, and is available for interview and to write features.
Discovering her Polish / Jewish heritage, aged 15
Growing up, while Georgia was close to her grandparents, she had no idea she was a quarter Jewish, or that she came from a family of Holocaust survivors - it wasn’t a big secret, just a piece of her grandfather’s past he had chosen to put behind him.
At a family reunion in 2000 she discovered the greater Kurc family saga. Snippets of stories overheard include: a sister who walked over the Austrian Alps, pregnant; a cousin born in the Siberian gulag, where it was so cold his eyes would freeze shut in the mornings and his mother had to use the warmth of her breast milk to coax them open; a harrowing mother-daughter escape from the Radom ghetto; a secret wedding in a blacked-out house in Lvov.
Travelling through Europe, tracing her family’s footsteps
Georgia followed in the Kurc family’s footsteps, travelling the route her family travelled, through Poland, Austria, Italy, and Brazil. Some of the most moving moments were wandering the streets of Radom, where she discovered a mezuzah - one of only 2 remaining - in the doorway to their old apartment building, and standing with her son on the train platform in Bari, where several relatives reunited after the war.
Researching her family story
The story came together through travel, extensive interviews and outside research, with key findings through the Shoah Foundation, the Hoover Institution at Stamford and the UK Ministry of Defence.
Fact to fiction
While the bones of the story are all true (e.g., who was where, when), Georgia’s goal in writing We Were the Lucky Ones was to put readers in the shoes of her relatives, which is why she chose to write the novel in the present tense - to help the story feel relevant, visceral, memorable. When she finally allowed herself to fictionalize the details it helped to bring the story closer to the truth.
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