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‘We need the literature of other countries to expand our
horizons and stimulate our ideas. Without it, we are not only
diminished, we are starved’
(The Times, Magnus Linklater 29/06/05)
Man from the Other Side (The)
by Uri Orlev
Age Range: 9-11
Fourteen-year-old Marek is a young Pole living with his mother and stepfather, Anthony in occupied Warsaw just before the 1943 ghetto uprising. He is an observant Catholic living in an anti-Semetic society. When Marek’s stepfather asks him to help him smuggle food into the ghetto by travelling through the sewers, he agrees. For Anthony it is a business transaction; food is sold at high prices to the Jews in the ghetto, but he is also prepared to return with a baby to hide with the nuns for which there is no charge.
Marek is casually anti-Semitic and after he is involved in robbing a Jewish escapee he is caught by his shocked mother. She points out that his actions have sentenced the escapee to death and she then reveals Marek’s own heritage – his father was Jewish. Deeply shaken, Marek sets out to make amends. He befriends Jozek who he sees in church crossing himself the wrong way and ultimately leads him back, underground, to the ghetto, during the uprising.
This beautifully crafted and compelling fictional memoir is based on a true story told to Uri Orlev in 1987 by a Polish journalist. The understated but very revealing tale follows Marek through some harrowing experiences as he is drawn into this Jewish battle for survival on both sides of the ghetto wall. As well as telling the story of the Warsaw ghetto uprising, it also gives the perspective of a boy living in an anti-semitic society, where not everyone is prejudiced for there were many people working quietly against the Nazis in the resistance movement.
The Man From the Other Side was awarded the Mildred L. Bachelder Award in 1992.