Kindertransport Refugees – “The Star and the Shamrock” by Jean Grainger

How gut-wrenching for Ariella Bannon to have to put her ten year old daughter Liesl and son Erich who is barely seven onto the Kindertransport to keep them safe because the Brownshirts are rounding up Jewish families right and left. Unable to get visas for the three of them, Peter’s cousin Elizabeth Klein in Liverpool has agreed to take them. Even Ariella’s Irish Catholic husband was picked up five months ago for helping an elderly Jewish lady on the street. What is the world coming to when neighbors you’ve been friends with for years are now looking at you with hatred because you’re a Jew? Putting her Jewish children on the Kindertransport is the only way to ensure their safety.

Sent Away for Safety

Elizabeth lost her husband on the last day of the Great War (WWI) and then suffered a miscarriage and she’s closed her heart off ever since, vowing to never again leave herself open to that kind of hurt. But the two refugee children quickly capture her heart and even though they ache for their mother, they respond to Elizabeth’s honest and loving nature. When her home in Liverpool is lost in a German bombing raid Elizabeth and the children move to the safety of her family home in Ballycreggan Ireland.

An influx of Jewish refugees has taken up residence on a communal farm just outside the village and Daniel Lieber is their resident Mr. Fixit, repairing and/or rebuilding any and every mechanical or electrical appliance or implement they have. And since everything they have has been donated, there is always something in need of repair. Elizabeth ignores the attraction she feels toward Daniel when they meet because she can’t afford to jeopardize her teaching position now that Liesl and Erich are her responsibility. However, the safety Elizabeth and the children hoped to find in the Irish countryside isn’t the haven they hoped for. When their quiet village is also targeted by the Germans they realize danger is everywhere and people are not always what they seem.

“The Star and the Shamrock” is my first encounter with author Jean Grainger and I was captivated by her eloquent prose and the clarity of her narrative covering this piece of the war raging in Europe and it’s affect on two Jewish children and their non-Jewish aunt. While this is certainly set in the timeframe of the Holocaust, that is not its focus. It is obviously well researched but where it really shines is in how well she portrays the upheaval to the lives of these two children and the fear and uncertainty they face when they are sent a thousand miles away to live with a virtual stranger. Away from their home, their mother and everything that makes a child feel safe. I am looking forward to Book Two “The Emerald Horizon”. Four stars.

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