It’s the 1950s, and Zygmunt Schwarzer is on his way to an apartment in Manhattan, New York City, with an important delivery. He has with him the Second World War diary of a young Polish Jewess, Renia Stiegel. He delivers it to Renia’s sister Ariana and her mother Roza. Unable to face the diary, Roza puts it away unread. It would be decades before anyone could bring themselves to look at it.
Renia Spiegel was born in 1924 into a Jewish family in the village of Uhryńkowce, which was then Polish but is today in Ukraine. Her father Bernard owned a farm, and her mother was Roza. Her sister Ariana came into the world six years later and became a starlet in Polish movies. Roza and Ariana had moved to the Polish capital of Warsaw to further Ariana’s career.
Renia lived with her grandparents in the Polish city of Przemysl, a little less than 180 miles southeast of Warsaw. In late summer 1941, Ariana came to Przemysl on a visit. While she was there, the Nazis invaded the west of Poland at the beginning of September. This triggered the outbreak of the Second World War.