On Hist Fic Saturday
Let's go back to...Warsaw, 1937-1945
1 February 2018
My thanks to the publishers for my copy of this book
' You do not leave a sick child alone to face the dark
and you do not leave a child at a time like this'
Those poignant words sum up the work of Doctor Janusz Korcsak, a Polish paediatrician, who was an early pioneer of child welfare, and who cared for more than two hundred children in the notorious Warsaw Ghetto during the Nazi occupation in WW2.
And even as the eponymous doctor strives for good, so the world turns towards the evil that men do, and this novel shows, with absolute startling precision, just what happened to those Jews who were forcibly removed from their lives, and who were made to live in appalling conditions, where their daily struggle to survive was filled with fear and horror on an inhuman scale.
Misha and Sophia are two young students who meet and fall in love and whose urge to survive the ghetto forms the basis for this harrowing and emotional story. Living alongside, Doctor Korcsak, they see at first hand just how the doctor cares for the children in his care, and share his philosophy that life is precious and that every child should be encouraged and cherished. That events conspire against them makes for disturbing reading.
The Good Doctor of Warsaw is a truly exceptional story, and such is the strength of the characterisation that, despite the horror unfolding, the need to read on becomes paramount, and is a tribute to the author’s skill in bringing such an important story to life. Based on fact and with meticulous research, Janusz Korcsak’s story deserves to be told. His compassion and brilliance shine with every well written word, and in using testimonies of the surviving family members of Misha and Sophia, and in the documented evidence of Korcsak’s enlightened philosophy, a deeply emotional story of dreadful persecution is revealed.
It's a long time since I read a story which moved me to tears and which left me with such a feeling of utter sadness for what had been allowed to happen during this horrific time in Poland's history. And yet, underneath the degradation that went on and the suffering that the ghetto people endured, there is also a real sense of heroism, courage and absolute bravery.
Out of a population of over half a million people, only one percent survived the Warsaw Ghetto. We should never be allowed to forget them.
Elisabeth Gifford's debut novel, Secrets of the Sea House, was shortlisted for the historical writers' Association Debut Crown. She is married with three children and lives in Kingston Upon Thames.