The Polish Girl

Written by Malka Adler
Review by K. M. Sandrick

When the Russians enter Poland in 1939, eight-year-old Danusha and her seven-year-old brother Yashu are hustled from home to home, and hiding place to hiding place, until their mother Anna is able to get them out of war-torn Eastern Europe to Haifa, Israel. The journey, written from Danusha’s perspective as she grows up, is filled with small, often tender, and heartbreaking details: her mother’s efforts to hide delicate embroidered handkerchiefs and towels after washing, only to later find them missing from the clothesline. It also recalls Danusha’s observations as she experienced them: her wish to drive memories of her father out of her mind after he leaves one day and fails to return, the pains in her feet when she is forced to sit in the cold waiting hours for a train.

The Polish Girl is the second book about a Polish family in WWII by the Israeli author; Adler’s The Brothers of Auschwitz (2019) was a USA Today bestseller. It convincingly takes on the voice of a youngster who must confront complicated and dangerous situations. The narrative reveals Danusha’s feelings of loss and abandonment, her sense of estrangement from her mother, her vulnerabilities. It is only later in Haifa as her mother tells of the family’s movements through Nazi-occupied Poland that Danusha comes to understand. The Polish Girl is a poignant reconstruction of the emotional baggage carried by a young girl and a survivor.