ON JULY 4, 1941, Ephraim Sten, then 13, began a diary in Nazi-occupied Zloczow, Poland. Over the next 1111 days, he kept a diary while hidden with his mother and several other Jews by Hyrc Tyz in the nearby village of Jelechowice. Though Sten recorded the day-to-day circumstances of life in hiding, the defining character of 1111 Days in My Life Plus Four results from the commentaries by the older Sten fifty years later to each of his youthful observations and thoughts. These commentaries make for a chilling revelation of Sten’s inner world, buried as it was under a seemingly successful life in Poland until 1957, then in Israel where he emigrated. Sten discovered that he has been living in a psychological hell, hidden from everyone – “For decades,” he writes, “I was not conscious of the load crushing my soul. This damned writing has newly rediscovered everything.”
1111 Days in My Life Plus Four is in part an extraordinary three-and-a-half-year record of a Jewish boy’s life under the constant threat of being found out by the German SS and Ukrainian collaborators. It is also a contribution to the history of the unsung actions of ordinary people like Hyrc Tyz who, at the greatest of risks to themselves and their families, rescued Jews from certain death.
EPHRAIM STEN was born in Zloczow, Poland (now in the Ukraine) in 1928. Having survived WWII, Sten studied theater in a non-academic school in Warsaw following two years in the Katowice Technion engineering school. He became artistic director of the Municipal Theater in Gdansk; though his career was soaring, he left it in 1957 to emigrate to Israel. By 1959 he was working for the Israeli Broadcasting Authority, eventually becoming a department head. Sten directed and adapted numerous radio plays, introducing Israeli listeners especially to the work of Polish artists. Three-time winner of the Israel Broadcasting Authority Award, he moved to Israeli National Television in 1971 as head of the Arts and Drama department, then returned to radio as head of the arts department of Kol Israel in 1989. Sten published many short stories. A first book, Blessed Memories, included stories about the life of new immigrants during the 1950s; a second, Pompeii Is Being Destroyed Again, is a thriller. Ephraim Sten died of cancer in 2004.