Tuesday, November 02, 2010

The Zookeeper's Wife by Diane Ackerman

The Zookeeper's Wife by Diane Ackerman

Before WW2, Warsaw Zoo was a fun place to take children to see both local and exotic animals. Jan and Antonina Zabinski are the caretakers of the zoo, living there with their son Rys. Their house is constantly full of baby or ailing animals as they keep care of them.

Things change when the war starts. The Germans take over Warsaw and set their camp up right outside of the zoo. A German zookeeper they knew from before the war comes and offers to take some of their animals away to German zoos so they aren't harmed, but the couple know this is actually a demand. Life gets more and more difficult, however the Zabinskis recognize the need to help their Jewish friends and neighbours. Soon, rather than housing animals, they are providing a refuge for Jewish families. Some stay for only a couple of days, others for quite a while longer.

The Zabinskis were, quite simply, heros. Yet they didn't look on what they did as heroic at all. Infact they seemed to enjoy the company of their visitors and though there were stressful moments, didn't look at it as troublesome. I'm in awe of this couple and can't believe I hadn't heard their story before reading this book. The book reads almost like a movie. I highly recommend this book!

First Line: "At dawn in an outlying district of Warsaw, sunlight swarmed around the trunks of blooming linden trees and crept up the white walls of the 1930s stucco and glass villa where the zoo director and his wife slept in a bed crafted from white birch, a pale wood used in canoes, tounge depressors, and Windsor chair."


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