The Old Brown Suitcase

by Lillian Boraks-Nemetz

readability- grade 6 and up, readaloud -grade three and up

Fourteen year old Slava’s story represents the experiences of many Polish child survivors of the Jewish Holocaust. Slava’s nightmarish life begins when Poland is invaded in 1939; Slava is only six years old. During the time of the Second World War, Slava suffers through starvation, illness, abandonment, and destruction all around, as her family struggles to survive and stay together. When the war ends, Slava’s parents decide to immigrate to the safety of Canada. Slava now has to suffer through the new pains of forgetting her past, making new friends, doing well in school, and growing up in a very different country. Boraks-Nemetz has successfully written an heart wrenching story that no one will ever forget.


  1. Throughout the novel, Slava has lived in many homes. For each move, Slava has been asked to pack her suitcase with her most valued possessions. If you had to leave your home and were asked to pack your suitcase, what would you put in it and why? (can discuss or write as a journal entry…)
  2. If there was a new student who had just arrived from another country, what could you do to make them feel comfortable and safe. (brainstorm in groups pre/post read)