Rachel and Aleks
by Sylvia Smoller      
Discussion Questions

  1. Freud famously asked, “What do women want?”
    What did Rachel want? Did she ultimately get what she wanted?
     
  2. Contrast Aleks and Roman. What about each of them drew Rachel?
  3. Aleks was accused of treason. Why? What was the political climate that brought this about? 
  4. How did the political situation in Poland change in the years before the war? 
  5. What are some examples of the role of friendship throughout the book?  
     
  6. In the book, there is this passage:

Sometimes it seemed to Rachel it was all chance: escaping, getting caught, life, death, everything hinging on some small, insignificant incident that leads to one path instead of another, each path equally likely, embarked on because of some random event, a word, a glance. At other times Rachel was convinced that she herself was indeed the instrument of fate.

 

What role was played by chance and what by the particular characters of Rachel and Aleks in their survival?

 

  1. Why did Consul Chiune Sugihara do what he did to save the Jewish refugees at considerable personal risk? Why did he help people whom he did not know, to whom he had no particular connection, and no particular reason to help. What were his motivations? 
  2. What was the nature of Rachel’s relationship to Sofie?
     
  3.  What role did chance versus character play in the fate that befell Sofie?
     
  4.  Can you speculate on what might have happened to each of the characters if Rachel had made a different choice?