I came across The Secret of Priest’s Grotto: A Holocaust Survival Story accidentally; I’m fairly certain it was alphabetically near something else I was looking up in our library system. I’ve always been fascinated by Holocaust narratives, however, and so I put it on hold without hesitation. I finally started it last night, and it was short enough that I finished it today.
Priest’s Grotto isn’t quite like any Holocaust narrative I’ve ever read, I have to say. It covers a Jewish community of interconnected families who spent almost a year hiding in Ukrainian caves; a few of the men ventured out periodically to purchase or steal supplies, but most of the group stayed hidden. (At least one child had forgotten what the sun was by the time they were liberated.) Their diet was meager, their clothes almost perpetually damp from condensation, and they lived in fear of discovery by either the Nazis OR the local police–and yet, they survived. Some of them emigrated to Canada and the US, where they eventually met with a team of “cavers” who had heard rumors of the survivors’ existence and were searching for them. Those cavers traveled to the Ukraine to explore and document the families’ underground refuge.
This book was the result–and it was fascinating. Full of pictures, quotes, and the details of the group’s story, it tells a different kind of Holocaust experience. (I had no idea there were such large caves in the world, much less that anyone could live in them for over 300 consecutive days.) I’d recommend this one to anyone interested in the Holocaust or WWII (although I should note that while it’s not graphic, it’s probably meant for late elementary or junior high schoolers at least).
I promise you, you won’t be disappointed.