We Were the Lucky Ones Summary & Study Guide

Georgia Hunter
This Study Guide consists of approximately 63 pages of chapter summaries, quotes, character analysis, themes, and more - everything you need to sharpen your knowledge of We Were the Lucky Ones.
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We Were the Lucky Ones Summary & Study Guide Description

We Were the Lucky Ones Summary & Study Guide includes comprehensive information and analysis to help you understand the book. This study guide contains the following sections:

This detailed literature summary also contains Quotes and a Free Quiz on We Were the Lucky Ones by Georgia Hunter.

The following version of this book was used to create this study guide: Hunter, Georgia. We Were the Lucky Ones. New York: Penguin Random House, 2018.

The novel begins in Paris where Addy, middle son of the Kurc family, is living as a composer. He has received a letter from his mother, Nechuma, warning him not to return to Poland because of the threat of invasion by the Nazis. Nechuma is living in Radom with her husband Sol, and their other children, Genek, Jakob, Halina, and Mila, and Mila's four-month-old daughter Felicia. Genek, Jacob, and Mila's husband Selim join the Polish Army, which is quickly defeated by the invading German and Soviet armies. Selim goes missing. The rights of the Jews are severely curtailed; Jewish ceremonies and traditions are forbidden, but Jakob secretly marries his girlfriend Bella, and Halina secretly marries her boyfriend, Adam. The Kurcs are forced from their home and into one of Radom's two Jewish ghettos.

The Nazis force Halina to work on a beet farm and Mila to work in a uniform workshop. Addy joins the Polish division of the French Army. Genek is taken into custody by Soviet police, and when he refuses to claim Soviet citizenship on a form, he and his wife Herta are sent to a work camp in Siberia. Addy deserts from the army and meets a diplomat from Brazil who provides him with a visa to travel there. While traveling aboard a ship bound for Rio de Janeiro, Addy meets a young Czech woman named Eliska and falls in love with her, though he worries constantly about his family back in Poland.

In June of 1941, the Soviets and the Germans end their alliance, at which point the Germans murder thousands of Polish citizens and blame the violence on the Jews. This incites a series of pogroms in Radom, and the Kurcs have to hide out in basements so they are not killed in the street. In Siberia, Genek and Herta have their first child, a boy named Józef. It is so cold that he wakes up wailing because his eyes have frozen shut. As Addy and Eliska arrive in Brazil, they plan to marry, but Addy is concerned that he feels he cannot be honest with her about his anxiety about his family, as she does not like to discuss difficult subjects like this.

Poland and the Soviet Union sign a peace treaty and the prisoners are freed from the Siberian work camps. Genek and Herta travel from Kazakhstan to Tehran to Tel Aviv, where Genek signs up for the Polish division of the Soviet Army. In Tel Aviv, they are reunited with Selim who has been unable to contact Mila since joining the army at the beginning of the war. Mila, meanwhile, is told that the Germans are allowing some Jews the opportunity to emigrate to America. However, when she and her daughter Felicia board a train with the belief they will be permitted to leave the country, they are instead made to exit the train and dig their own graves. Mila bribes a guard with her wedding ring to let them go. They hear the rest of the prisoners being shot and killed.

Mila, Halina, Adam, Jakob, and Bella relocate to Warsaw where they find jobs and pass as Christians. Halina finds a safehouse in the countryside where two farmers are willing to hide Nechuma and Sol from the Nazis. Mila leaves Felicia at a Catholic convent to secure her safety. Genek travels to Italy with the Polish division of the Soviet Army. They mount a successful attack on a Nazi stronghold in a monastery in Monte Cassino, opening the road to Rome for the Allies. Addy breaks his engagement with Eliska and meets an American woman, Caroline, at a party. She helps him write letters to the Red Cross seeking information about his family. They fall in love and get married.

The Germans bomb Warsaw, and Mila runs to the convent where she left her daughter, finding it in ruins. She digs through the rubble and uncovers the door to the bomb shelter where Felicia is ill, but alive. The war ends in May, 1945, and the Kurcs gather in Lodz to listen to the radio announcement. They travel to Italy to reunite with Selim and Genek. Jakob and Bella emigrate to the United States. Genek has contacted Addy through the Red Cross, and the rest of the family plans to travel to Rio de Janeiro to reunite with him. On the day they arrive, Caroline has just given birth to their first child.

At the end of the novel, all of the Kurcs (with the exception of Jakob and Bella) gather at Addy and Caroline's home in Rio to celebrate Passover. Halina has recently given birth to her first child, and Herta has had her second. The Kurcs marvel at how extremely fortunate they are to have lost no one in the Holocaust.

In an addendum to the novel, the author explains that the character of Addy was based on her grandfather, and that the plot is based on real events as they were told to her by her grandmother (Caroline) and aunts and uncles, the children of the Kurc siblings.

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