Uri Orlev was born as Jerzy Henryk Orlowski in Warsaw in 1931. His father was a physician and a reserve officer in the Polish army. When the Second World War started his father was called up to serve in to the army. Orlev, his mother and younger brother were moved to the Warsaw ghetto. In 1943 they lost their mother and were deported to the concentration camp Bergen-Belsen. They were liberated in April 1945.
He has written 34 novels for children and young adults which have been translated into 36 languages. Seven of his books deal with the Second World War, however, Uri Orlev does not see himself as a chronicler of the Holocaust. »Writing about my childhood during the war is like walking on a frozen lake. I mustn’t tread too heavily, I mustn’t think about what happened to us only as it was engraved in my memory as a child. Otherwise I would break through the ice, sink down, maybe for ever.«
It is hard to present a comprehensive overview of Orlev’s work, given the great number of his important and internationally-recognised books. Any attempt must include »The Lead Soldiers« (1956). This is the story of the boys Jurek and Kazik and their experience of growing up in the Warsaw ghetto and in concentration camp. »The Lead Soldiers« is a life-affirming celebration of children’s ability to confront even the most adverse conditions, written with care and humour. »The Island on Bird Street« (1981), which also received worldwide acclaim, is about 11-year-old Alex, who survives many months alone in a ruined building in a Polish ghetto. Orlev again shows how strong children can be in difficult conditions. His novel »Run, Boy, Run« (2001) has a similar structure. In this book the young Srulik manages to escape the Warsaw ghetto and get by on his own until the end of the war. Orlev’s latest novel »Homeward from the Steppes of the Sun« (2010) is the story of the five-year-old boy Eljuscha, who escapes with his mother and sisters to the Kazakh steppes, where he finds a childhood paradise.
Uri Orlev has received more than 40 prizes in Israel and abroad for his works, including the International Hans Christian Andersen Prize for his life’s work (1996).
He translates Polish literature into Hebrew. Orlev is married and has four children and five grandchildren. He lives in Jerusalem.
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