As a young, Catholic boy, I was frequently exposed to Judaism by my dad’s best friend, Louie Green. Louie inspired my interest and my deep respect for ‘things Jewish.’ My interest became intense in 2007 when I first saw the photograph “The Last Jew in Vinnitsa.” The Olympian was still in the hands of an agent and unpublished, and when I saw that photograph a story began to emerge, a story of courage in the face of the worst imaginable odds possible, worse even than what the 300 Spartans faced at Thermopylae.
Before I set pen to paper – or fingers to keyboard –, I encountered the 400+ page report – written in Polish — of Witold Pilecki, the only person who volunteered to go into Auschwitz. Pilecki was deliberately captured and sent to Auschwitz in 1940 and escaped in 1943. As I read his report, I researched every name I encountered.
“Not only gun butts of SS men struck our head. Something more struck them also. All our ideas wee kicked off in a brutal way …. They tried to break us mentally as soon as possible.”
Witold Pilecki, 1940
When I learned about Winter Olympian Bronisław Czech, I set the course to write The Hamsa. The working title, by the way
was Into the Heart of Darkness. I was taken by this man who regarded his athletic accomplishments as meaningless when measured against the things that really count in life.
Czech and so many like him were men of courage who refused to bow before the onslaught of Hitler’s Wehrmacht as it rolled into Eastern Europe. He became the focus of my story.
As the 2014 Winter Olympic Games continue in Sochi, Russia, I invite you to enter our contest to win a copy of The Hamsa. The winner will receive her choice of a physical book or an electronic edition for Kindle. Learn about Bronisław Czech and enter here to win my interpretation of his life.