The Light in Hidden Places
Przemysl, Poland, 1943. This incredible true story of survival centers on Stefania Podgórska, the teenage girl who hid thirteen Jews in the attic of an apartment she found for herself and her six-year-old sister, Helena, during the German occupation. Nearby is the ghetto where Jews live in the worst conditions imaginable, until they die of sickness or are shot. Stefania, a Catholic, believes love breeds love, and hate breeds hate. Struggling with the execution of the Jewish boy she hoped to marry, she chooses love. Thus begins Stefania’s journey to save others from certain death.
Stefania works in a tool factory making screws and hunts food in the markets, certain each time she returns to the apartment the SS will be waiting. As the number of people in the attic increases, hunger shrinks bellies, and tempers flare. Under suspicion, Stefania is taken to Gestapo headquarters. She is threatened in the street by young German soldiers and sees a man hanged, executed for hiding Jews, on her way to work. Then comes a knock on the door: Two nurses are moving into the apartment. With them, they bring their SS boyfriends. How much pressure to save Helena and the people hiding over her head can Stefania bear, with thirteen Jews above, the Nazis below, and her in between?
Based largely on Stefania’s unpublished memoir and research conducted with the assistance of Stefania’s family, Sharon Cameron’s author’s note offers a welcome look at Stefania, Helena, and the attic survivors following Russia’s liberation of Przemysl in July 1944. In 1979, the sisters were honored by the Holocaust Remembrance Center as Righteous Among the Nations. Their bravery has been recognized in numerous articles, awards, film documentaries, a 1996 movie, Hidden in Silence, and within the pages of this compassionate, beautifully written book, as well. Very highly recommended.