Run, Boy, Run by Uri Orley, translated by
Hillel Halkin; Houghton Mifflin Company:
Boston, 2003; $15
The minute I opened this book and read the inside book jacket, I couldn’t wait to turn to page one and immerse myself in another fantastic read—Run, Boy, Run. I even set down Gathering Blue so I could read the amazing true story of a boy who refused to give up, even when I know I would have. One of the reasons I decided to review a Holocaust book is because half my family and lots of my friends are Jewish. Some of my ancestors lived in Poland and Russia and migrated to America to escape the Nazis—some didn’t make it and were murdered by them. So when I settled down in my living room and opened the book, I just couldn’t put it down.
I was pulled into the story of a boy once called Srulik, later called Jurek. The story begins in a ghetto with two brothers planning to go to the Polish side of the ghetto, only to have their plans foiled by German boys. Srulik describes the incident through the eyes of his eager, eight-year-old Jewish body. Then, as he goes on with his tale, I feel the fear and pain as he realizes his mother and father are gone, and when belonging to a gang dubs him Red, and I feel the terror as he gets out of scrapes that should have ended in his death, but thankfully did not.
Srulik’s parents want him to have a good life. So when Srulik is escaping Nazis, and he meets his father, dying in a field, his father gives him the Polish name Jurek Staniak—and to blend in more promptly sacrifices his own life in exchange for his son’s. From the cruel people who either turned him in to the Germans or beat him viciously, Jurek learns, sometimes the hard way, not to trust everyone. But as in our own lives, there are always the good people, in Jurek’s case, people who taught him to pray like a Christian, or a German soldier who didn’t turn him in, but hid him and kept him safe.
Jurek’s life at times reminds me of my own—good people, horrible people, instant friends, and a loyal dog. But something that is unusual to witness today occurs almost per chapter in this book—Jurek has such trust, faith, and optimism that he pulls through predicaments in which even the coolest under pressure would’ve melted. Uri Orley writes in a way that makes me forget that it’s a man speaking instead of the eight-year-old boy who it seemed to be. He tells the story with the fear and curiosity that Jurek must have been feeling during his amazing experiences. All in all, Orley writes in such a way that I firmly believe he could become any character he pleased.
While reading, I kept feeling a connection to the story because of my Nazi-hunted ancestors, and also because of the nickname that Jurek and my grandfather share—Red. Jurek’s tale also makes me realize that no matter how hard things get, life goes on. Jurek is amazing at finding a light in the midst of darkness, and because of these elements which Uri Orley uses to portray the true story of a boy called Jurek, I stand up and applaud this amazing book, Run, Boy, Run.