Smile Politely

World War II Camp Survivor Comes to the Urbana Free Library

It’s 1939 and a small Polish village is overtaken by Soviet forces. A young boy, Wesley Adamczyk, along with his family, is taken captive, deported and sent to a series of brutal camps in Siberia. In the far reaches of a frozen and unfamiliar continent, they encounter everything from scorpions to communist double agents.

Adamczyk’s childhood was as difficult and unique as they come, and he will bring his story to the Urbana Free Library this Sunday, April 6, at 2 p.m. The author will read an excerpt from his memoir, When God Looked the Other Way, followed by a screening of Children of Exile, a documentary based on Adamczyk’s memoir.

Children of Exile won best documentary film at the 2008 San Luis Obispo Film Festival.

Lisa Redlinski, an Urbana Free librarian and the organizer of Sunday’s event, says that the film and memoir are particularly poignant in the context of the current global conflicts that make the daily headlines.

“We are hearing a lot about war in the news nowadays — so much so, in fact, that it can be all too easy to become numb to stories of forced evacuations, refugee camps and even mass executions,” she says. “A story like this, told from the perspective of a child, can jolt us from our complacency and force us to see afresh the simple indignities of war.”

The memoir is published by the University of Chicago Press. The documentary, Children of Exile, has not yet been released to the public.

Redlinski says, “As someone who loves a good yarn, and who reads too many books about World War II, I will say that this is one of the great memoirs and personal histories of that time.”

Adamczyk’s reading begins at 2 p.m. on Sunday at the Urbana Free Library, 210 W. Green Street in Urbana. The reading will be followed by a screening of Children of Exile. The event is free and open to the public.

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