Last week I highlighted some of my favorite historical books. One was titled Henry by Katrina Shawver. Ms. Shawver is a member of Rave Reviews Book Club, wrote for The Arizona Republic, and has her degree in English and Political Science.
Henry Zguda was a champion swimmer from Poland, born in 1917 and died in 2003. Ms. Shawver tape recorded her many interviews with Henry and wrote a fascinating book from those interviews. The reader will learn about his early childhood years, how he learned to swim at the newly constructed YMCA and how over a short period of time he became a championship swimmer.
Henry and his family were Catholics and yet he spent many years in Auschvitz and Buchwald. The Nazi's hated and feared all Poles, not the Jewish because historically Krakow some thousand years before was a part of Germany. Henry used his intelligence, sense of survival, strong belief in hope, and connections with important friends he was able to survive those many years of living hell. His escape and how he made his way to the United States is fascinating and demonstates his strength of character.
From reading the history and learning about the geography of Poland I came to a better understanding of how World War II and the holocaust came to be a part of world history. Briefly, it is completely surrounded by Russia, Germany, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Ukraine, Belarus, and Lithuania. The kingdom of Poland was founded in 1025 and had converted to Christianity. In the 16th Century it established an elective monarchy and guaranteed religious freedom. In the ensuing years its borders had been invaded time and time again. With each invasion, its borders were changed.
The friendship that developed between Henry and Ms. Shawver was touching and beautiful.
"Henry was a champion, not only of swimming, but of survival. His unique narrative told by Shawver, is a gift to us all." (Ann G.)
"It is hard to put down, and will make you think. I found it comforting to think that such a good man existed and survived in such incomprehensible circumstances.
Highly recommended." (Janet)
"This is a most fascinating read about the life of Henry Zguda, who was a champion swimmer in Poland. The author tape recorded her many interviews of Henry, researched to verify facts, visited and saw places in Poland of which he spoke, and included photographs. The tumultuous history of Poland and its unique political position made it a target for such countries as Russia and Germany to invade. It was difficult to read about Henry's years in two concentration camps because the reality of those places were so well described.