National Geographic Adventure Mag.: Caver Chris Nicola talks about uncovering a heroic tale of Holocaust survival.: “Their first stop was Verteba, a well-known tourist cave where the families spent their first six months. There, the Jews struggled to find enough water and suffered from the toxic buildup of smoke from their cooking fire. Then on May 5, 1943, after narrowly avoiding capture at the hands of the Gestapo, the families relocated to a previously unexplored cave located beneath land owned by a local parish priest. It was called Popowa Yama, or Priest’s Grotto, and it would be the Jews refuge from the Holocaust for the next 344 days… one of the survivors, only four years old at the time, said she remembers playing with a bright, shining crystal in the cave. One of the largest crystals in the world is close to their campsite inside Priest’s Grotto, and chunks of it will sometimes fall to the ground. When we saw the crystal, we realized that that was where she used to play.”
Just came back from a book club where we discussed Chaim Potok’s My Name is Asher Lev. A young Hassidic jew grows up with a gift and desire for drawing, which earns him only the oppobrium of his family, though the artistic world acclaims him. I enjoyed it immensely, probably because I recognised the characters a little from my childhood – the most amazing thing was that it convinced me for a few days that I was living in a winter wonderland – I’d leave tube stations and expect to be walking out into snow drifts, I’d rub and blow my hands inside my fingerless gloves before realising I was actually too hot, not cold. The book’s ending is predictable, but it pulls no punches; I’d recommend it to anyone, though I’m too tired to describe why right now.