By Anna Bailey
Before this date Alicia had been living a great life. She lived in Poland with her parents and 4 brothers. She had many friends and loved her school and synagog. This was the first time her family had felt discriminated against because of their religion. It happened to her oldest brother Zachary. He had been on his way to violin practice when a group of boys attacked him."Come on Zhid (Jew) lets hear you play"..."please let me go in please zachary said to them" "They kicked him in the ribs, took turns holding his arms so others could beat him" (3) Before this point Alicia had never thought of her friends as Jew and non Jew, but I think this event made an impact of how Alicia viewed the people she came in contact with. She was only 8 years old when this happened so it probably didn't make complete sense to her but I can imagine her older siblings and parents really started getting nervous.
"Poland will never forget the year of 1939" (6) This quotation shows the beginning of change in Alicia"s life. It marks the end of her carefree childhood. The Soviets invaded Alicia's town and communism was imposed. The Soviet soldiers were pretty nice and life went on. Alicia's brother Moshe was invited to go to a boys school in Russia. He left and as time went on his letters became fewer and less informative. one day he came home in the middle of the night and told the horrors of the "Boys School" he had been attending. The next day police men came to take him to jail. He died a few months later in prison. "My brothers death brought changes in my parents" (15). This was just the beginning of the heart break and tragedy. I can't imagine how parents would feel if they realized they could no longer protect their children.
Alicia and her family were moved from there home into a ghetto. There they had to follow strict rules with punishments of death. One day in the ghetto Alicia's brother is moved to a work camp and later shot "the Germans lined up everyone and shot every tenth boy" (38) What were these boys thinking as they saw others being shot? I can't even imagine what was going through their minds. In the Ghetto Alicia started to learn to take care of herself and others event though she was only in her pre teen year. She would buy and sell soap and help provide food for her family.
"As quickly as they had entered the Russians disappeared" (16) They were replaced by the Germans who were even more destructive and terrifying. One day Alicia's father did not come home. He was never seen or heard from again "Do you remember the thunder we heard the other day? Don't you remember how odd we thought it" (19) 600 other men from the town were killed that day. Families were broken but as Alicia's brother Zachary
said "we must hope for the best" (20) How did the German occupation compare to the Russian Occupation? How did the non-jew Polish people feel about the heir new occupiers?
One day a German officer barged into Alicia's home looking for her mother. "Alicia Jurman?" the officer asked "I swallowed hard...Yes I said" Alicia kept good on her promise to take care of her mother. She was then taken to Prison where she was beaten and given water contaminated by typhoid. At one point one of the officers tried to wake her up and she wouldn't so they assumed her dead and sent her to be buried in a mass grave. There the grave diggers (Jews) found she was not dead and nursed her back to health. She then returned to a family that had thought her dead and who had contracted typhoid. She and her best fiend Milek then take care of them while they recover.
17 year old Zachary hated not being able to protect his diminishing family so he joined a resistance group. He felt he needed to do something to fight back. One day the hiding place of a girl he loved was given away by a farmer. The girl was killed. Zachary went to kill the farmer but "just couldn't do it" (65). When he was betrayed by a friend that he did this the police hung him publicly. They would not let Alicia take the body so she had to sneak him to the cemetery. "When we put him in his freshly dug grave, all I wanted was to be buried with him" (67) Instead though,she found a renewed resolve to protect her mother and brother. Why did Zachary's death make Alicia stronger while her dad and other brothers death just hurt her? I think this is because Zachary had been the protector of the family throughout the beginning of the war years so with him gone Alicia felt more responsibility for her remaining family members.
After surviving several actions Alicia and her family are taken to a new ghetto where and action takes place where Alicia is taken to the woods to be shot. "How can you describe the death march of what seemed to be a sea of men, women, and children? We were defenseless, demoralized people being pushed, hit, and even killed by the Germans and Ukranians" Before she is shot Milek comes and distracts the Germans long enough for her to run away. Being separated from her mother and brother she desides to go to their meeting place back in Buczacz. A this point Alicia thinks that Milek is dead. What kind of feelings would she have towards someone who gave his life so she could live?
After reuniting with her mother, Alicia started working in different farmers fields each day pretending to be a peasant girl. She would work for food and then sleep in the ravine with her mother. This was very dangerous but whenever her mother would question her Alicia would say "What could happen to me? I am Helka the wonder girl of the Pole. I am Slavka, the good Ukrainian filed hand. Of course I will be careful" (168) As winter drew near Alicia and her mother moved in with a trustworthy bee keeper whom they called Wujciu.
The Russians took over Poland back over so Alicia and her mother returned to their home to see if there were any other survivors. They were free people again and not really sure what to do with their lives. "Then it happened, just like that, out of nowhere! Terrible explosions were heard in the middle of the night. Our war had begun again" (216) They knew they couldn't stay in the city so they fled but Alicia's mother was hit in the leg and so they had to stop. All through that night Mrs. Jurman kept telling Alicia "You must go, Alicia. You must live" You owe it to us all to survive. You must leave tonight" (219), But Alicia did not leave. She stayed with her mom and at day break they were dragged outside by officers. One of the officers pointed a gun at Alicia and shot but her mom stepped in front of her and died instead. Alicia was then taken to prison where she later escaped.
A lot happened to Alicia in the years after the war. Since she had no surviving family she decided to help others who were in her similar position. She started an orphanage for Jewish orphans. She said that thought the children "Had been freed there was no one to loo after them" (327) this is where she came in. She found people to donate clothes the the children could trade for food and wear. They lived in a big house that was owned by a jewish family before the war.
During the war Alicia had helped two groups of Russian Partisans escape from prisons. She was awarded documents that made her a hero to the Soviet government. Because of this and her work with the orphans the leader of the Brecha organization that smuggled Jews to Israel asked her to join and help the Jewish people. "So you want my documents?" Alicia asked the Brecha leader. "Of couse we want your documents, but we don't want them without you" (348) Alicia was a pretty amazing 15 year old who help many groups of jews travel through Europe safely.
On Alicia's last trip with the Brecha she got sick and was sent to a displaced persons camp in the Alps to recover. There she made many friends and even attended some school. When her first opportunity arrived to go to Israel illegally she took it. Unfortunately her group got stopped in Belgium where she started attending school while she waited for her next chance to go to Israel. "then the day finally came" (416) Alicia and the other teens headed for Israel aboard a ship. As it was illegal travel when they were stopped by a British naval ship they were taken prisoner and sent to a prison camp on Cyprus.
After the prison camp Alicia was sent to Israel where she joined the army. She met her husband in 1949 and soon moved to America where they had 3 kids. She now devotes her life to telling the the story of her family and friends during this war. I am very amazed with Alicia's story. All the way through I was thinking what would I do in these situations that were her reality. She was so brave and clever all the way through the war and then after the war she continued to not only survive but live even though her whole life seemed to have died in the war.