To distract herself from the noises of sobbing and defecation that surround her, Sarah tries to think of happy memories. Several of these memories involve her best friend, Armelle. Sarah also recalls a family trip to the seaside, and how Michel, a toddler at the time, loved the ocean. Sarah looks up and notices her mother speaking with a Polish friend whose husband was arrested earlier in the year. This causes Sarah to reflect on the day her family heard the news of “something terrible” that had happened in Poland. Thinking of this, Sarah feels frustrated at the fact that her parents have consistently tried to shield her from bad news. She resents being “treated like a baby,” and wonders if all she is going through might have been easier had her parents mentally prepared her.
In this chapter Sarah takes the first step toward separating herself from her parents. By criticizing their decision to shield her from knowledge of the political reality, Sarah is beginning to forge an identity that is separate from her complete reliance on her parents. The fact that Sarah is beginning this process of self-actualization at the young age of ten, and under pressure from such horrific circumstances, underscores the impact that traumas such as those inflicted during the Holocaust can have on an individual’s psyche. On that note, the “something terrible” that Julia remembers is likely a reference to a pogrom (that is, an organized massacre of Jews).