The Girl in the Green Sweater
|Authors||Krystyna Chiger & Daniel Paisner|
|Publisher||St. Martin's Press|
|30 September 2008|
To avoid Nazi concentration camps during the Holocaust in Ukraine, Krystyna Chiger and her family hide in the sewers of Lvov. To keep warm, Chiger's grandmother knits her a green sweater, which is now in the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.
The Girl in the Green Sweater is a memoir co-written by Krystyna Chiger and Daniel Paisner following Chiger's early life as she escapes Nazi concentration camps with her family. Living in Lvov, Poland, which is now a part of the Ukraine, Chiger and her family members are forced into the sewers of her city to escape German forces who threaten the lives of their entire community.
Their escape begins in September 1939, when Germans first begin invading the city of Lvov and Chiger is just starting kindergarten. Once German troops successfully conquer Lvov, Chiger’s family and the rest of the city's Jewish population are forced to a district nicknamed “the ghetto". Once placed into a new home, Chiger's father constructs a multitude of secret hiding places for her and her brother. They hide there for hours, with a small amount of food and a bedpan. In addition, they have to remain perfectly silent, risking capture with the slightest noise.
In May 1943, just before the final “liquidation” of Chiger's community, a small group moves into the sewers through a secret hole her father had been digging for weeks using spoons, forks, and other small tools. While there, Chiger's grandmother knit her a green woolen sweater to keep her warm, inspiring the title of her book.
When describing her experience in the sewers, Chiger mentions a Polish Catholic sewer worker named Leopold Socha. At first, he would bring the group food in exchange for money, but even when the family could no longer compensate him, he continued. She accounts that Socha would also take their clothes to be cleaned, despite the risk of being caught. The Chigers nicknamed him “the angel” because he would go above and beyond to help him.
Chiger mentions a time when she lost her voice due to shock, and Socha helped her get it back. He brought her to a manhole cover and lifted her up to show her the world outside the sewers, filling her with hope and inspiring the return of her voice.
The group endured several life threatening events inside the sewers, including serious flooding and a large fire. Chiger writes about her experience, “We could somehow always come up with something that would make us burst out laughing. I think that this saved us too. It saved our minds.” Of the 150,000 Jews living in Lvov, only three families survived, among them the Chiger family.
About the AuthorEdit
After escaping from the sewers of Lvov, Chiger and her family moved to Israel. There, she studied to become a dentist and married another Holocaust survivor, named Marian.
Chiger's brother, Pawel, was killed in a car accident when he was 39 years old. He had two children and four grandchildren who now live in Israel. Chiger and Pawel's father passed away in 1975, and their mother in 2000, aged 91.
Chiger is now the only living eyewitness to what happened in the sewers of Lvov. Her famous green sweater was on display at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum and has been recreated by knitters around the world.
In Darkness (Polish: W ciemności), a 2011 Polish drama film written by David F. Shamoon and directed by Agnieszka Holland, and nominated for Best Foreign Language Film at the 84th Academy Awards, is based on true events during German occupation of Poland, from the perspective Leopold Socha, a sewer worker in the Polish city of Lwów. He used his knowledge of the city's sewer system to shelter a group of Jews who had escaped from the Lwów Ghetto during the Holocaust in Poland. Chiger was not consulted during the filming, as the director, Agnieszka Holland, did not know that there were any survivors.
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