We Were the Lucky Ones Blog

Romance Amid Roadblocks Aboard the Ill-Fated S/S Alsina

Greetings and happy 2013! I hope you’re as excited as I am for what the new year has to bring. #1 on my list of resolutions this year is to complete a draft of The Lucky Ones by summertime. Wish me luck! I left you last with a snapshot of life for the Kurc siblings in December of 1940. My grandfather was desperate to escape Nazi-occupied France. After being denied visas to America,...

A Step Back in Time to December 8th, 1940

It’s official–the holidays are upon us. This evening, families will gather to light the first of their menorah candles, hosts will begin prepping their holiday menus and children will sit down in pine-scented homes to pen letters to the North Pole. In the midst of it all, I can’t help but reflect on my own holiday rituals, and on those of my ancestors. What was it like, I...

Does ‘We’re Sorry’ Cut It, Seventy Years Later?

Last April, I received a letter from the Memorial Center in Moscow—an organization I contacted in hopes of tracking down additional information about my great-uncle Genek, who was deported from Poland in 1941, along with his wife Herta, to one of Stalin’s Siberian gulags. A woman by the name of Olga Cheriepova, a member of the Memorial Center’s Polish Committee, sent two...

A Tattoo that Says ‘Never Forget’

The Sunday before last, the New York Times published an article entitled Proudly Bearing Elders’ Scars, Their Skin Says ‘Never Forget.’ In it, journalist Jodi Rudoren describes a movement among twenty- and thirty-somethings to replicate the tattoos worn on the the forearms of their Holocaust-survivor relatives. I found the piece both chilling and inspiring. “When [21 year old] Eli Sagir...

"The Night Eight KGB Agents Burst Into My Flat"

Neck deep in research on Stalin’s Siberian gulags, I was consumed with the burning question of how and why Genek and Herta were sent off to Siberia in the first place. By recommendation of the Kresy-Siberia Foundation, I contacted Stanford University’s Hoover Institution. Amazingly, I heard back right away—not only did Hoover have a record of Genek’s name, they had a...

A Siberian Mystery Unfolds

After six weeks of squatting with friends and another six weeks of tackling travel writing assignments and endless piles of boxes, we’re (nearly!) settled in our new home…which means, at long last, I can return to my book. Inspired by a recent visit from my cousin-once-removed, Michel (visiting New York from Brazil), I thought I’d give you a glimpse at what it took for me to...

Home Sweet Home

I’ve been thinking a lot recently about the meaning of “home.” A month ago, after a seven-year stint in Seattle, Robert and I packed up six-month-old Wyatt and all of our belongings and caught a one-way flight to Connecticut. The day before our move, however, our CT lease fell through, and our world turned upside down as we began a mad search to find a new place to live. While...

We Have a Winner!

You guessed right, Daryl—the mosaic in the banner photo above lives just off the shore of Ipanema beach in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Congratulations on being the first to respond correctly—your iTunes gift card is on the way (you should consider downloading Getz & Gilberto’s Girl from Ipanema to commemorate your win!). Robert and I visited my family in Rio a year and a half...

One, Last (mountainous) Clue

Thanks to all of you who have guessed/commented on last week’s “name that photo” contest. The verdict’s still out on where the banner shot (above) was taken…which means a $25 iTunes gift certificate is still up for grabs! I’ve decided to post one, last clue—a panned-out photo (below)—which I imagine will incite a few aha’s! You can see the...

Underground in Miami

“I wasn’t the only one in the family with multiple identities,” Ricardo said when he’d finished explaining the story behind his two birth certificates. “During the war, my parents went by the name BRZOZA.” Ricardo’s father, it turns out, was part of the Jewish Underground. He made false papers. “How?” I asked. “He replicated the stamps...

"What do you mean, I have two birthdays?"

A month after I returned from Paris, I flew to Miami to interview Ricardo, Anna’s older brother (my grandfather’s nephew). Ricardo was born just after the war, although when, and where exactly, seemed to be something of a mystery. “Ask him about his birthdays,” my mother suggested, before I left. “Birthday…S?” “Yeah. He has two of them.”...

A Trove of Family Treasures in Paris

Hello, friends and family! Little Man Wyatt has rounded the three month bend and I’m happy to report that I’m back (well, almost) from the Land of the Sleep Deprived, and excited to get the ball rolling again on blog posts. I left you last in Paris, where I’d spent an afternoon interviewing Felicia (daughter of my grandfather’s older sister, Mila). I met with Anna...

A New Branch in the Family Tree

Dear family, friends, and followers of The Lucky Ones, Exciting news on the home front–Robert and I have welcomed a new branch to our family tree! Thomas Wyatt Farinholt (“Wyatt”) arrived on November 23rd, just over three weeks early (in true Kurc fashion, he’s already on his own schedule–determined to take fate into his own hands!). The past nine days have been the...

Looking Back: Surviving the Holocaust, Through the Eyes of a Three-Year-Old

In February of ’08 I flew to Paris to interview two relatives: Felicia and Anna (daughters of Mila and Halina, my grandfather’s two sisters). Equipped with a digital voice recorder and an empty moleskin notebook (and a flutter in my stomach that kept me wide awake for the duration of my ten-hour overnight journey), February 11, 2008 will forever stand out to me as the day this project...

Coincidence?

It was January 17th, 2008 when I finally picked my mother’s black binder up off the shelf. A new year, full of resolutions, including one big one—to unearth and record my family history. I sat cross-legged on my couch in Seattle, the binder resting on my lap, took a long, slow breath, and flipped it open.

Passing of the Baton

I remember the day I told my mother I wanted to write a book about our family history. We were sitting on her gray and white-striped couch in Providence, Rhode Island, the day after Christmas, 2005. “I’ve decided I’d like to write a book about how Papa and his siblings survived the Holocaust,” I said. I held my breath, unsure of how my mother would respond. (Try telling the average person...

Luck Was Only Part of It

(Continued from Thirty-Two Relatives Under One Roof: a Raucous-Turned-Revelational Family Reunion) It turns out my grandfather (who later changed his name, for obvious reasons, from Adolph/Addy to Eddy), was just one of over twenty Kurcs originally from Radom, Poland. He was living in Toulouse in ‘39 at the start of the war. When he learned it would be too dangerous to return home to Poland for...

Thirty-Two Relatives Under One Roof: a Raucous-Turned-Revelational Family Reunion

In July of 2000, the summer after I graduated from the University of Virginia, my mother organized a Kurc family reunion at our house on Martha’s Vineyard. She invited thirty-two relatives (many of whom she hadn’t seen in over twenty years), and to her surprise, all thirty-two RSVPed, “Of course we’ll be there!” We rented a house down the street from ours and asked the neighbors next door if...

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We Were the Lucky Ones Picks Up Momentum, at Home and Abroad

The fun began in early October, when Viking organized a media lunch in my honor, inviting literary editors from places like The New York Times Book Review, Publisher’s Weekly, Glamour, Vogue, O, Family Circle, Redbook, and the Jewish Book Council to a private event…