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Children's Fiction European

Old Brown Suitcase, The

by (author) Lillian Boraks-Nemetz

Ronsdale Press
Initial publish date
Mar 2008
European, Holocaust
Recommended Age
10 to 14
Recommended Grade
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Apr 2008
    List Price
  • eBook

    Publish Date
    Mar 2008
    List Price

Classroom Resources

Where to buy it


The Old Brown Suitcase, an award winning book that has sold extraordinarily well both nationally and internationally, now appears in a new edition by Ronsdale Press. The novel narrates the absorbing story of a young girl who survived the Holocaust against all odds.

At age fourteen, Slava comes to Canada with her parents and sister and a suitcase filled with memories of a lost childhood, memories that now haunt her new life. She cannot forget the hunger, stench and disease in the Warsaw Ghetto, nor the fear and humiliation of being incarcerated behind a high brick wall. She cannot forget her extraordinary escape from the Ghetto when she walked alone through the gate while the guards were looking the other way. Nor can she forget being swallowed up in a strange and unknown place to survive under a hidden identity.

The story juxtaposes heart-wrenching scenes from a child’s life in war-torn Poland with the life of a teenager trying to adjust to a new country in time of peace. In Canada, it is not easy for Slava to build a bridge between two cultures; nor is it easy to live with the turmoil of her immediate past. At the same time she must face the new challenges involved in being an immigrant, a Jew and a teenage girl. This new edition appends notes on the Warsaw ghetto and a bibliography for future reading.

About the author

Lillian Boraks-Nemetz was born in Warsaw, Poland, and is a child survivor of the Holocaust. She escaped from the Warsaw Ghetto and spent the remainder of the war in hiding under a false identity. Boraks-Nemetz graduated from the University of British Columbia with a Masters Degree in Comparative Literature. She is an author of an award winning novel The Old Brown Suitcase followed by The Sunflower Diary and the Lenski File, as well as two volumes of poetry Ghost Children and Garden of Steel. She has translated Polish Emigre poetry into English and has also co-compiled the YA anthology of Canadian Holocaust writing, Tapestry of Hope. From 1980-2016, Boraks-Nemetz worked at the University of British Columbia’s Writing Center. She often speaks to students about the consequences of racism, as a member of the Holocaust Center’s Outreach Program. She is a board member of the Janusz Korczak Association of Canada. She lives and works in Vancouver.

Lillian Boraks-Nemetz's profile page

Editorial Reviews

“This book is a fabulous read for anyone interested in historical fiction” — What If? Magazine

Librarian Reviews

The Old Brown Suitcase: A Teenager’s Story of War and Peace

This semi-autobiographical book was first published in 1994. Slava and her family are imprisoned in the Warsaw Ghetto. She escapes to hide in a small Polish town under a hidden identity. Eventually she immigrates to a new country. In Canada, fourteen-year-old Slava must try to fit into a culture that she doesn’t understand. In the foreword Robert Krell, writes, “The author succeeds admirably in conveying the weight of the past while struggling towards a more hopeful future, all the while demonstrating clearly the complexities of transition.” This book, also available in French under the title Slava (Les editions Heritages, 1996), has won many awards. Boraks-Nemetz also wrote The Sunflower Diary and The Lenski File, sequels to this book.

Caution: Includes some suggestive sexual content.

Source: The Association of Book Publishers of BC. BC Books for BC Schools. 2008-2009.

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