My mom loves reading books about the Holocaust. I like reading them, but I find I can only read a few a year because they tend to drain me emotionally.
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While my mom was visiting, she read Claiming My Place by Planaria Price, and she promised me that unlike most Holocaust stories, the Holocaust is in the background of this story. There were still terrible events that happened, but they weren’t the main focus of the book like many other Holocaust books.
Gucia Gomolinska is a Jew living in Poland who has a happy upbringing. She has many siblings, and her parents run a butcher shop. Gucia is an excellent student, and she dates one of the most popular boys in school. Her teenage years are the happiest of her life.
But then Germany invades Poland, and life changes dramatically. Gucia is blessed that she is a good student and is fluent in Polish, Yiddish, German, and English. As the restrictions on the Jews increase, Gucia’s boyfriend begs her to run away with him to Russia, but that would mean marrying him, and after years of dating, she’s still not sure she wants to marry him.
Yet, as the Jews are forced into the ghetto, as there is more and more talk of round ups and extermination camps, Gucia becomes fearful. Finally, she takes a leap, gets forged papers, and decides to live as a Pole, not a Jew. Thankfully, she has dirty blond hair and can pass as a Pole. She tearfully says goodbye to her family, knowing that she may never see them again and that if she’s caught, she’ll face immediate death.
For at least 3.5 years, Gucia, who has now become Danuta Barbara Tanska, lives another identity, pretending to be a Catholic Pole. At one point, she even moves to Germany!
There are certainly horrible things that happen to the people in this book, but overall, this is an uplifting book of one woman’s determination and grit that allowed her to survive the Holocaust.
I give this book 5 out of 5 stars on the Mom’s Plans’ scale.