Escape Via Siberia: A Jewish Child's Odyssey of Survival

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9780841914032: Escape Via Siberia: A Jewish Child's Odyssey of Survival
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Whiteman presents a compelling story of survival. Through the story of one boy -- Eliott 'Lonek' Jaroslawicz -- she conveys the tale of the dramatic escape of thousands of Polish Jews from the encroaching Nazi menace. With the crack of a Nazi whip on his father's head, the world that Lonek knows is gone forever. Lonek and his family are forced to join the tide of refugees fleeing eastward. In the course of their flight they are imprisoned in a Siberian labour camp. A short-lived treaty between the Polish Government-in-Exile and the Soviet Government allows for the miraculous release of approximately one hundred thousand Polish citizens, including Lonek's family. They make their way to Tashkent, only to find that life there is harsh-hunger and sickness abound. When his father falls ill, Lonek's mother is driven to despair and leaves her ten-year-old son on the doorstep of an orphanage. Lonek is then swept up in another miraculous rescue. He joins the more than 900 Jewish children known as the "Teheran Children," who depart on the only kindertransport that emanates from Russia. After an arduous journey, the children are stranded in Iran due to the vagaries of war and failed diplomacy. Their plight is championed by Henrietta Szold while the leadership of Hadassah relentlessly pressures the American and British governments to assure the children's safe passage. Finally, eight months after they leave Tashkent and after a route that takes them through India and Egypt, Lonek and the other children safely reach Palestine. In ESCAPE VIA SIBERIA, Whiteman has crafted an elegy to the human spirit while emphasizing the tremendous international forces which affected the Polish Jewish escapees' lives and their persistent, heroic struggle in the face of tremendous odds.

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From Kirkus Reviews:

An incredible way out of the Holocaust leads a boy to a Siberian labor camp, abandonment in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, and then being smuggled out of Teheran to Palestine. Clinical psychologist, survivor, and author of The Uprooted: A Hitler Legacy (not reviewed), Whiteman turned down several book opportunities with survivors, but was intrigued by the unreal record of boyhood flight from Jaroslav, Poland, by Elliott ``Lonek'' Yaron. After research confirmed his torturous tale, and his name was found among the 900 little-known children of a clandestine kindertransport from Iran, Whiteman agreed to work with Yaron. While the author adds historical background to each locale, she retains Yaron's authentic but poor Englishwith mixed results. An example of their collaboration: ``With such harrowing experiences behind them, the children remained somberEliott recalled the pervasive sense of melancholy on the train: `We was, you know, each one sadThen a small incident pierced the thick enveloping gloomunfathomable delicacy, a treasure, a bonanza.'' Despite the painful overwriting and underwriting by author and memoirist, this book is unique for its wartime history and geography, with its myriad of encampments in the wilderness before the Promised Land and survival. By horse-driven cart, rickety cattle trains, and leaky ships over heavily mined seas, Yaron travels from Jaroslav to Lvov (after hiding on Polish farms), through the Urals to Siberia (a frozen gulag of work and death), across Kazakhstan and Uzbekiststan (where his just-widowed mother abandons him), through the Persian Gulf and Gulf of Omar (past Iran and India), past Aden, Ethiopia, the Arabian Sea, Port Said, Egypt, and a final train to Palestine. Along the way are sights like skeletal survivors lunging for garbage, many of Hitler's willing executioners, and the rescue efforts of brave, generous people. Not a literary treasure, but a valuable piece of Holocaust history. (photos, not seen) -- Copyright ©1999, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.

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