Wednesday, August 13, 2014
The Night Journey by Kathryn Lasky
There are so many books about the Holocaust, and those are very important books. There are fewer books about tsarist Russia, and how Jews were treated during this time period. There are fewer books about Jews who were subject to pogroms by Russian soldiers that could happen at any moment, and the fact that despite this treatment, Jewish men were forced to serve in the army. Books like these are important so that history is not forgotten.
Rachel is a typical pre-teen. Her parents annoy her at times. She isn't thrilled with having to sit with her great-grandmother, who isn't always lucid. But when Nana Sashie begins talking about how her family escaped from Russia, Rachel is pulled into the story. She had no idea that this was part of her family history.
Nana Sashie tells Rachel what it was like to live in Russia during this time period. Jews were constantly afraid. They never knew when a pogrom might happen. At any moment their village could be full of Russian soldiers who would kill everyone and burn down the village. And there was no one to stop them, and there were no consequences for the killers. Nana Sashie was just a little girl when her father decided they must leave Russia. But the family, made up of Sashie, her mother and father, her two younger siblings, her grandfather and her aunt, couldn't just leave. They couldn't just stroll over the border. They would have to find a way to sneak themselves close enough to the border, and then bribe a guard to get them across. It would be very dangerous. They would need a plan.
Nana Sashie tells Rachel how she came up with much of the plan on her own, even though she was a little girl. The escape had many frightening moments, when it seemed like they might be caught, which would certainly mean death. But they made it.
Rachel begins to see how important it is to Nana Sashie that she tells someone this story. It's important that someone knows and someone remembers what happened so long ago. Rachel begins to write down her great-grandmother's story so it will never be forgotten.