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Milestones (OPINION)

“The Zookeeper’s Wife” is a recent edition and addition to the great works penned by Diane Ackerman.

While she has created other best sellers and essays, this story captures the essence of life in war torn Warsaw as if you are there.

Taken from the diaries of Antonina Zabinski and her husband Jan, we are entranced in a tale of how they saved over 300 people from the Nazis during the occupation of Warsaw during WWII.


For history and war buffs, this is a come-to-life depiction of depravity in the extreme.

Ackerman weaves her story of forced wanderlust by refugees who seek out the zookeeper’s facility for refuge.

Refugees are assigned to empty animal cages and given animal names and animals were given human names. All as a code to protect the endangered species of those being hunted and on the run.

The code name for the zoo became “The House Under a Crazy Star.”

Crazy, because the events Zabinsky records and Ackerman brings to life put us in touch with the experiences of constant fear, exposure, capture and certain death.

With many moments and monumental miracles, direct encounters with Nazi patrols, it is a nail-biting–can’t put it down–style reading.

Perhaps hard to believe and yet believable, Antonina records these events and hides her writings in hopes that someone, someday will find her diaries and share them with the world.

Focusing more on the small role she and her husband played in this lion and rabbit, hide and seek game of death, Antonina unfolds their clever plan of deception.

She is quick to admit that subterfuge became the order of every day. Not just for those residing at the zoo and in her home, but those active in the underground operating throughout Warsaw.

This story wraps its arms around fear, terror, torment and redemption in a way that few have ever experienced, or even read about.

Hollywood has already recognized the literary significance of this amazing tale and produced a movie by the same name and now showing in theaters.

If the movie captures even half the intrigue, deception and suspense of Ackerman’s writing, it will be worth the view.

While our kids may have some difficulty in relating to such horror, described and experienced by those during the war, there are members of our community who cannot forget.

World War II ended just 72 years ago.

“Zookeepers” continue to live in all walks of life and societies. Reading Ackerman’s work can only generate a renewed appreciation for those seeking to remain free from tyranny.

Speaking up, speaking out, and writing truthful news begins at home.


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