My Father's life seemed well planned; so much, that it began two years before he was even born in 1927 in the Polish town of Lwów. Disregarding all the mischief his brother thought up, Stanislaw Szybalski led a happy, sheltered upper-class childhood. That all ended on the day he went out to buy supplies for the new school year that was going to start the next day. It was on September 1, 1939 - the day Hitler bombed Lwów.
Stanislaw is an amazingly factual boy with budding entrepreneurial talent. He allows us to see how his world turns with disarming honesty. His naive mishaps make us laugh, just as his pain touches us. His humorously dry assessments of whimsical, but all the more headstrong characters make us curious and we feel the unrelenting will and craftiness of an adolescent eager to take on his life - even if it wasn't going the way his parents had planned.
The Polish army defended Lwów for twenty days and nights. Its inhabitants sat in makeshift bomb shelters fearing Hitler's impending invasion. What no one knew was that Hitler and Stalin had already secretly divided Poland. Stalin took his share and let his troops march into town as "Liberators". For two years, the Soviets terrorized the population, and killed and deported thousands to gulags in Siberia and Kazakhstan. When Hitler declared Stalin was his enemy in 1941, the Soviets fled Lwów head over heels, but not without first murdering thousands of Ukrainians in their wake.
The Nazis celebrated their arrival in Lwów, and then began murdering Jews, Poles and later even Italian officers. The moment Hitler's Reich began to crumble after their defeat in Stalingrad, Poland's underground Home Army mobilized, determined to regain Poland's freedom and sovereignty. Stalin put an end to that by waging war against them and taking back "his" 40% of Eastern Poland, this time without its Polish population.
The first time you hear a bomb, you're in shock. The younger you are, the less you understand why this is happening. All you want is for things to return to normal again. In the midst of chaos, striving for normalcy becomes your most urgent need. This is the story of what became a very unusual childhood.
Just like the millions of Poles expelled from their homeland, Stanislaw is forced to climb onto a horse-drawn carriage with his mother, grandmother and dog Czyki, and leave family, friends and his beloved hometown behind