KN: Halina is a vivid character. What did you do as an author to get to know her?
DF: That's a really interesting question that no one has asked me before. I don't have a methodical process for getting to know characters, and I think I get to know them the same way I get to know my friends--by listening deeply to them as I consider the situations they are in. Of course, with Halina, I did have to do a lot of historical research about the time period as well as life in the ghetto and the forests to understand the type of life she was living.
KN: I’m fascinated by the ziemlankas. Could you please tell us as much as you can about their construction?
DF: Construction is not my forte, but this is what I understand. They dug holes in the ground, then lined them with logs to keep the dirt from falling in. They camoflauged the entrance with leaves. Inside there were shelves, which served as beds, as well as room to put a woodstove for heating. You can find a picture of them and more information on the website of the Jewish Partisan's foundation. www.jewishpartisans.org
KN: Music plays an integral role in the book from Halina’s singing to Eli’s violin playing. How and why did you decide to have music be such an important part of the book?
DF: I can't seem to get away from music; it's such an integral part of my life. Almost all the books I've written feature music in some way or other. This may be because I grew up in a music family. Two of my grandparents, as well as several great aunts and uncles were professional musicians; my parents both went to the High School of Music and Art. I sing in a chorus, and have played piano, guitar and carillon. My two children (ages 22 and 17) have been serious music students their whole lives. But in addition to that, I believe that engaging in creative arts plays a huge role in sustaining morale in times of crisis, whether that be music, dance, visual art, or some variation thereof. I think that the use of music in Escaping Into the Night played a huge role in giving both Halina and Eli the hope and strength they needed to survive.
KN: In the book the Russian Army welcomes Halina and the other Jewish refugees. Was this typical? Did the refugees continue living in the forest under the protection of the Russian Army?
DF: The relationships between the Jewish refugees and the Russian Army weren't 100% smooth, but many deals were struck that guaranteed protection in return for weapons and services.
KN: Is there anything else you’d like to tell us?
DF: You can find more information about the book on my web site: www.ddinafriedman.com, which includes programs I offer, as well as classroom resources and a discussion guide. You can also find more information about the forest communities at www.jewishpartisans.org.
KN: Thank you for writing this stunning book and for taking the time to do the interview.
DF: You're welcome, Kate. Thanks for taking the time to review it and feature it on your blog.