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on February 4, 2018
My teen visited the Holocaust museum and it reminded me of a story I had seen in the Reader's Digest ages ago. Took me a few searches, but the memorable line, "It wasn't a bird." is how I finally found it.

I love the authors' use of birds to show us the horror of her experience without having to look at it directly. The language choices are genius.
I also love how the author took the worst humanity has to offer and managed to tell a story of hope. I stand in awe.

Cons: The kindle version made viewing the photos difficult. For the kindle version I would request the language appendix be placed as a preface (I read the whole book through slaughtering the words and missing their meanings... only to find an appendix at the end...alas.)
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on August 29, 2015
This was a very good book. I was hooked from the first page. I am interested in the different stories of the holocaust. This story takes a different view of the Germans and Russians. Irene is more or less saved by working for the Germans. She is shocked and saddened at how the Jewish people were treated. She is separated from her family and she learns that she has to survive the war in order to hopefully see her family again. I could write a lot more but I want you to read and see what Irene went thru in order to survive. You will enjoy this book it is worth the price.
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on May 15, 2014
Every story of the holocaust is terrible and everyone is different. This story tells the tale of a young Polish woman who somehow rose to the horrible challenges of the time and did some good while surrounded by unfathomable inhumanity. She humbly states that she came to take the chances she did to save human lives "step by step"-not all at once. It is interesting to see the process that lead her to take action. She witnessed other gentiles who had helped Jews being executed for their "crimes" and yet continued to help those she could at great risk and sacrifice to herself. Well told and I could imagine it as a movie. I highly recommend reading this for learning and for a well written memoir.
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on March 21, 2017
I have a student who is a senior in high school who was reading this book for his Literature of the Holocaust class, and he told me I really needed to read this book. He was right. When it arrived, I read the first 90-some pages at work, then took it home and read the entire rest of the book that night. I guess I knew all the big stories of World War II and the Holocaust, but I never really considered the impact on people caught in the middle of it all. I didn't know much about what happened in Poland during the war. I consider this a grave omission on my part. This book has inspired me to read more, to learn more. Irene was a true hero.
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on May 22, 2011
Irene Gut is a teenager and a nursing student when the Germans invade Poland at the start of WWII. Her story is one of adventure, despair, deprivation, degradation,loss and courage. In spite of all the traumas Irene endures she rescues and saves several Jews. Many owe their lives to her. She is a truly decent person who had the strength of character and the courage to defy the Nazis. I think her life story would make an excellent movie. Wars and the partisan life are so much more interesting when viewed onscreen. The reason I gave this book 4 stars instead of 5 was because of the writing and not the story. The scenes don't jump off the page. Still I found the book suspenseful and I had no trouble finishing it. If you like to read holocaust stories, this is a good one to add to your collection. Irene was honored with the title "Righteous Gentile" at Yad Vashem holocaust memorial in Israel.
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on February 3, 2015
I could not put this book down. What a story and what a brave and wonderful woman she was! I have read so many negative things about the actions of Polish people during the Holocaust that it was good to have a story of a Polish citizen who resisted the Nazis and helped the Jews and fought with the resistance. There were many others I'm sure whose stories did not get told. She visited schools in her later years as a US citizen and spoke to students after she realized that there were people claiming the Holocaust never existed. I know her story and her memories will encourage those students she spoke to to do the right thing when anyone is being oppressed, whether by a bully in the schoolyard or a group of people of other ethnicities or religions.
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on August 24, 2010
Irene Opdyke was a 17 year old student nurse away from her home near the German/Polish border when war broke out in 1939. She had a profound sense that she would die in the war. Death was everywhere around her, how could she escape it? She decided to die for SOMETHING rather than for NOTHING. So she began with small acts of rebellion against the Germans who pressed her into service for her bilingual German-Polish skills. Her heroism escalates, and the ending of the book is deeply satisfying. This book is full of grace notes and of inane things that only real life can produce.

If you are at all interested in what makes us human, what makes us decent, what war can bring out of a seventeen year old girl all alone, this book will move you deeply.

Quick! Buy it now! Before you forget!
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VINE VOICEon June 19, 2002
This is probably one of the most remarkable stories that I've ever encountered and I don't understand why it hasn't received more attention. My husband and I listened to the audio tape which was beautifully read by Hope David.
IN MY HANDS is the autobiography of Irene Gut, a 17 year old Polish Catholic girl. The book begins with lovely recollections that Irene had of her early life in Czestochowa, Poland, where she was surrounded by her four sisters and loving parents. When the Nazi's invaded Poland in 1939, Irene was living away from her family in Radom where she was studying to become a nurse. When Radom was bombed, the Polish Army had to retreat and asked that some of the medical staff come with them to help take care of the wounded. Irene volunteered to go, and eventually ended up on the other side of Poland which was under Russian rule. Many miles away from her family, and eventually separated from the other hospital staff, Irene faced life alone, and saw the country that she loved controlled by brutes and killers.
At first this young woman saw the worst in the Russian soldiers and later she also met the German invaders who showed her another side of brutality. Despite the threat to her own life, Irene risked everything so that many others had the chance to live. This very inspiring memoir compares to HIDING PLACE the story of Corrie Ten Boom and her family.
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on December 18, 2015
I've read this book several times. The story Irene tells is one of admirable courage. I loved her interactions with family, especially her dad, various priests, her woodland friend and many others. She tells people, no matter how young, you can stand against evil and do good. As she wrote at the end of her book, "This is my will: to do right; to tell you; and to remember. Z Bogiem. Go with God."
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on April 7, 2008
Whereas the novel I mentioned in my title left me feeling cold (not to mention the author was a small child when she writes about her experiences, which must be grainy), this powerful account is simply written, but also written well. It's deliciously descriptive and emotional. I felt like I did walk in Irene's shoes, for I saw everything through her eyes (true, it was written in first-person point-of-view), instead of like watching a movie.

By the way, I think this would make a great film, though I am not sure if there is an actress beautiful enough to play Irene (who really should be played by a young, unknown girl, age appropriate, not a trashy pop starlet, who would degrade).

Through it all (being raped by two Russian soldiers and left for dead, becoming a German officer's mistress to protect her Jewish friends, etc.), Irene maintains an innocence that is refreshing, and when she loses her first truelove before they have a chance to marry, it broke my heart.

I will say I have an even dimmer view of the Catholic Church than I did before (not Catholics in general, just some of the politics of the religion), because when Irene goes to a priest to confess being a German's lover to save the lives of her friends, he says, "They are Jews", and I could actually hear the inflection in his voice that said, "They're just Jews", like they weren't worth saving. This un-Christlike priest refuses to give her absolution, which, from a doctrinal standpoint I understand, but not from a spiritual standpoint. Yes, Irene was sinning, but she was not committing crimes against humanity, and I believe my God is a merciful and just God and that He understands for He can see Irene's soul.

This deeply religious, courageous woman has earned my respect and her chronicle is hardcover worthy.
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