Passport to Reprieve

As seventeen-year-old Sonia prepares to leave her childhood home in Tarnów, Poland, to study journalism in Paris, antisemitism is on the rise. It is spring 1939, and her father is leaving for Canada to set up a new life there for his family. Stranded in Canada when war breaks out in Europe, he is frantic to reunite with them. Sonia, caught in the grips of the Nazi regime, suddenly finds herself responsible not only for herself but for her mother and younger sister too. Sonia’s father works feverishly from Canada to get them out to safety, even managing to become a citizen of neutral Nicaragua, sending Nicaraguan passports to his family. In Tarnów, Sonia faces the Gestapo again and again, armed with these documents as anti-Jewish laws escalate and the daily violence intensifies. As Sonia bravely tries to shield her family from the atrocities in the Tarnów ghetto, she feels torn between temporary triumphs and an agonizing sense of futility. In the face of deportation, Sonia’s wait for a reprieve turns ominous. Will her determination and deception be enough to save her and her family?

Introduction by Natalia Aleksiun

At a Glance
Poland; Germany; Switzerland
Internment camp
Documentation as Nicaraguan citizen
Arrived in Canada in 1945

312 pages, including index

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Photo of Sonia Caplan

About the author

Sonia Caplan (née Roskes) was born in Białystok, Poland, in 1922 and was raised in the city of Tarnów. After being held in the Tarnów ghetto for more than two years and the Liebenau internment camp in Germany for another two years, Sonia was released to Switzerland with her mother and sister in January 1945, and they arrived in Canada in February 1945. In Montreal, Sonia reunited with family, married and raised three children while pursuing studies in literature, her lifelong passion. Sonia Caplan passed away in 1987.

Trembling with agitation and anxiety, I finally realized that there were just three possibilities for us: one was to get permission from the Gestapo, by some miracle, to be exempt again; the other to be shot; and the third to be deported.