SJCF: Good in the Midst of Evil

Good in the Midst of Evil by Dana Fast

The Saratoga Jewish Cultural Festival, with a generous grant from the Jewish Federation of Northeastern New York, presents Dana Fast in her story, Good in the Midst of Evil. This is Dana’s saga of her experiences in World War II Warsaw, Poland, as chronicled by her daughter, Yvona, on July 7 at 7 PM on Zoom.

The Warsaw ghetto was sealed off in 1940. The Jews made up about 30% of the city’s population and were shut into 2.4% of the city’s land area. About 400,000 Jews were compelled to live in the ghetto of which 100,000 died of starvation, the rest deported to death camps. In 1943, German occupiers demolished Warsaw. Eleven-year-old Dana Fast and her younger brother survived. In 1942, her courageous parents smuggled the two children out of the ghetto.

Torn from her family, Dana survived for two years, relying on inner strength, ingenuity, and some righteous Samaritans, to survive. Hidden sometimes in plain sight, she learned to act the role of a Catholic girl, living in the Polish countryside. Dana came from an upper-middle-class secular Jewish family in Warsaw when the war broke out. As she says, “I was a pampered girl and all of a sudden I was in the war.” Fast eventually moved to the US in the 1960s, living in Chicago and Philadelphia before settling in the Adirondacks.

Yvona Fast, herself a writer, brought the story forward and had it published under the title Good in the Midst of Evil.  She tells of growing up and studying history and the Holocaust, asking her mom questions; however, Dana would not talk about her past. Not until the 1990s, when Dana’s younger brother asked her to write the story down for his children as he had been too young to remember events and details, Dana wrote the story on a friend’s old word processor. Her friends in Poland wanted to read the story as well, so again she returned to the word processor and rewrote the story in Polish. These early drafts were lost until more recently discovered by Yvona in a filing cabinet.

Dana, now 91, became a strong independent woman with a degree in chemistry and a career in medical research. She retired to gardening, hiking, and volunteering in her community of Saranac Lake in the NY Adirondacks, where she has lived for almost a half century.

Recently, watching the war unfold in Ukraine, Dana reported feeling so much for the people in Ukraine. It is like the war she survived happening again with families torn apart and displaced, civilians and troops killed, towns and homes bombed.  So many of the cities that she sees now were Polish cities at the time.

“Dana’s story is unfortunately not unique,” says Phyllis Wang, Coordinator of Saratoga Jewish Cultural Festival, “as others have reported through published memoirs and records at Yad Vashem.” Dana is quick to say it is unfair to deny the heroism of many Poles who risked their own lives and that of their families to take in and hide Jews like herself.

Good in the Midst of Evil is available anywhere books are sold.

Good in the Midst of Evil, with Dana and Yvona Fast, will be on Zoom on Thursday, July 7, at 7 PM. Registration is required at sjca.sjcf@gmail.com

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