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Personal Stories Are Vital Records

Posted by Carol Browne on 26 Jan 2017

Tags: Poland, real life, Being Krystyna, Holocaust, WW2

Friday 27th January is Holocaust Memorial Day and also sees the UK release of Denial, a film based on the true court case involving Holocaust denier David Irving.  These events will focus people’s attention on what happened of course, but Dilliebooks founder Sharon McKee believes we need to make sure that the Holocaust isn’t remembered only once a year.

This week there were reports that the internet has led to an increase in a new generation of Holocaust deniers. As the people who lived through the horrors of World War 2 and personally experienced things that are so difficult to even imagine now grow older and fewer in numbers, it is vital that their memories and stories are recorded and preserved.

This was my overwhelming reaction when I first read the manuscript of Being Krystyna, and why I felt it was such an important book to publish. It is the true-life story of a Polish Jew, who miraculously survived the Nazi invasion, despite being arrested and imprisoned as well as later taken to a concentration camp. Sadly, most of Krystyna's family didn’t make it and the book also tells how others perished.

It is a story that both inspires and horrifies. Three million Jews were killed in Poland and it’s estimated that the Germans also killed at least 1.9 million non-Jewish Polish civilians during World War II. Krystyna undoubtedly was one of the lucky ones. When you are dealing with such overwhelming numbers, reading a personal account and getting to know them through their story really brings home what individual, ordinary people went through.

Krystyna with her mum Sura and niece Lillian before the war

The other valuable insight in the book is that of the narrator, based on another real life person, Agnieszka Coutinho who moved to Peterborough from Poland in 2005. The story is written creatively to contrast the life of this young Polish woman living in the UK today and issues she faces with that of Krystyna when she made her home here after the war.

At Dilliebooks we felt compelled and privileged to publish such an important personal and historical record.

Krystyna today

Being Krystyna author Carol Browne had similar feelings writing the book. She says, “It was a big responsibility to write Krystyna’s story, and, as I usually write fiction, I wasn’t sure I could do it. But I felt that it is a story that needs to be told. Getting to know Krystyna and the enormity of what she went through really does bring it home what horrendous experiences happened to ordinary people. We must never forget what this brave lady and so many others went through and we should make sure it can never happen again.”

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About the Author

Carol Browne

Born in 1954 and raised in Crewe, Cheshire, Carol Browne obtained an honours degree in English language and literature from Nottingham University in 1976. When not writing fiction and non-fiction, Carol works as a self-employed housekeeper and...

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Related Books

Being Krystyna

In 2012 when young Polish immigrant Agnieszka visits fellow countrywoman Krystyna in a Peterborough care home for the first time, she thinks it a simple act of kindness. However, the meeting proves to be the beginning of a life-changing experience. Krystyna’s stories about the past are not memories of the good old days but recollections of war-ravaged Europe: The Warsaw Ghetto, Pawiak Prison, Ravensbrück Concentration Camp, and a death march to freedom. The losses and ordeals Krystyna suffered and what she had to do to survive are horrors Agnieszka must confront when she volunteers to be Krystyna’s biographer. Will Agnieszka be able to keep her promise to tell her story, and, in this harrowing memoir of survival, what is the message for us today?

Find out more...