The Labyrinth of Dan­ger­ous Hours: A Mem­oir of the Sec­ond World War

Lil­ka Trzcinska-Croydon
  • Review
By – August 15, 2012
This is an unusu­al Holo­caust mem­oir writ­ten by a Pol­ish Catholic woman, who sur­vived the atroc­i­ties of Nazi per­se­cu­tion. Her entire fam­i­ly was arrest­ed for their par­tic­i­pa­tion in the Pol­ish Resis­tance. It is not just the recount­ing of the suf­fer­ing they endured. The auto­bi­o­graph­i­cal text is fre­quent­ly inter­rupt­ed and enriched by the author’s poet­ry depict­ing the per­son­al emo­tion­al impact of her expe­ri­ences. 

Like Anne Frank’s fam­i­ly, Lilka’s fam­i­ly was mid­dle class, cul­tured and com­fort­able before the Nazis invad­ed their coun­tries. The two girls, of such dif­fer­ent back­grounds, were about the same age when Hitler took over. Anne wrote her diary as an ado­les­cent. Lil­ka wrote her mem­oir as an adult. Most of Lilka’s fam­i­ly sur­vived. Only Anne’s father sur­vived. The sim­i­lar­i­ties and dif­fer­ences of their expe­ri­ences are striking. 

The most touch­ing seg­ment of Lilka’s mem­oir is the love that devel­oped between her and Jerzy, a young man in the Pol­ish Resis­tance. They planned to mar­ry when the war was over. Unfor­tu­nate­ly Jerzy did not survive. 

Lil­ka became a child and ado­les­cent psy­cho­an­a­lyst in Toron­to, Cana­da, mar­ried, had two chil­dren, and after 25 years left her hus­band. With­out any need­ed expla­na­tion, the last poem was writ­ten in Decem­ber, 1996 for what would have been Jerzy’s 75th birthday. 

The book is sen­si­tive­ly writ­ten and a vivid account of a non-Jew­ish family’s suf­fer­ing dur­ing the Holo­caust. Pho­tographs, most­ly tak­en after lib­er­a­tion, bring the par­tic­i­pants to life. This wor­thy mem­oir deserves a bet­ter title. Although tak­en from one of the poems, the title is too pedan­tic, tak­en out of con­text. An excerpt from anoth­er poem would be more reflec­tive of an aspect of the human con­di­tion at a very try­ing time in human his­to­ry. How lucky to die so many deaths and to stay alive.”
Arlyne Samuels a grad­u­ate of Brook­lyn Col­lege, taught and super­vised Eng­lish in New York City for 40 years. She was the coor­di­na­tor of the book club of the Greater Worces­ter (MA) Chap­ter of Hadas­sah. Arlyne passed away in May 2009 and will be missed by the Jew­ish Book World team.

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