Lonek’s Jour­ney: The True Sto­ry of a Boy’s Escape to Freedom

Dorit Bad­er Whiteman
  • Review
By – October 17, 2011

Sev­er­al years ago, I had the plea­sure of read­ing Whiteman’s com­pelling sto­ry of sur­vival: Escape Via Siberia: A Jew­ish Child’s Odyssey of Sur­vival (Holmes and Meir, 1999). Through the sto­ry of one boy — Eliott Lonek” Jaroslaw­icz — she con­veyed the tale of the dra­mat­ic escape of thou­sands of Pol­ish Jews who fled east­ward from the Nazi onslaught into Rus­sia. At that time, a short­lived treaty between the Pol­ish gov­ern­mentin- exile and the Sovi­et gov­ern­ment allowed for the release of approx­i­mate­ly 100,000 Pol­ish cit­i­zens, includ­ing Lonek’s fam­i­ly. After mak­ing their way from Siberia to Tashkent, where Lonek’s moth­er is final­ly forced to leave her 10-year old son on the doorstep of an orphan­age, Lonek finds him­self to be one of the more than 900 Jew­ish chil­dren known as the Teheran Children.” 

While read­ing that book, I remem­ber think­ing what a mar­velous book this would be for fam­i­lies to dis­cuss the Holo­caust; if only there was a children’s ver­sion as well. And here it is! For­tu­nate­ly, White­man has done the adap­ta­tion her­self, so it remains faith­ful to the orig­i­nal sto­ry and grace­ful­ly writ­ten. The children’s ver­sion cov­ers Lonek’s two-year jour­ney over thou­sands of miles by land and sea to find free­dom in Pales­tine. It is a lit­tle-known true sto­ry that every Jew­ish fam­i­ly would ben­e­fit from read­ing — both ver­sions — and dis­cussing. Maps and black and white pho­tographs through­out. For ages 8 – 12; chil­dren from 14 up can han­dle the adult version. 

Mar­cia W. Pos­ner, Ph.D., of the Holo­caust Memo­r­i­al and Tol­er­ance Cen­ter of Nas­sau Coun­ty, is the library and pro­gram direc­tor. An author and play­wright her­self, she loves review­ing for JBW and read­ing all the oth­er reviews and arti­cles in this mar­velous periodical.

Discussion Questions