Hours after Germany invades the Soviet Union in 1941, nationalists in a small Ukrainian town carry out a pogrom against local Jews, killing dozens and leaving others for dead. One survivor is a seven-year-old girl. Lyuba is forced from her home into a Nazi ghetto, then spirited away, into hiding, for nearly two years -- on a farm, in haystacks.
Under the hay Lyuba discovers the will to persevere, to survive. Even as her eyes open to the moral failings of her Ukrainian neighbors, she takes heart in the kindness of the Ukrainian farmer who is hiding her at great risk to himself and his family. She's encouraged, too, by thoughts of reunion with her older sister, Hanna, who is in hiding in town. But it's her uncommon bond with the farmer's dog, Brisko, that helps Lyuba through her greatest moments of peril, and despair.
For Lyuba the dog becomes not just a guardian, but a guardian angel.
The real Lyuba -- now living under a different name in the United States -- tells her own story in "The Girl in the Haystack," weaving a vivid, suspenseful narrative that addresses simply the complex matters of culture and ethnicity, trust and distrust, courage and cowardice. It is a story that has waited more than seventy years to be told.
By Bryon MacWilliams. Paperback. 80 pages. Published by Serving House Books, 2019.