I just finished listening to Diane Ackerman's poignant book on CD. The writing is lushly Ackerman - what a master of the sensory detail. The book chronicles the directors of the Warsaw zoo during WWII, and describes the scrappy resistance, and Poles who risked their own lives by saving others. Ackerman also zooms in close to the loneliness and deprivation of this terrorizing occupation - the loss of ritual, childhood, and normalcy, as well as more primitive concerns like heat, nourishment and safety.
I am struck by the way some people, like Jan and Antonina Zabinski, are so highly evolved - incredibly moral, empathic, and driven. This family stands out in relief against the brutish behavior of the Nazis, but Ackerman shows that they were plenty remarkable before their country fell under assault. We have our own version of the Zabinskis here in Youngstown, and of course in every community where I've lived. I wonder of what stuff these qualities are made. We are lucky to have them among us.