Wednesday, December 11, 2019
World at War: Cilka's Journey
First sentence: Cilka stares at the soldier standing in front of her, part of the army that has entered the camp.
Premise/plot: Cilka’s Journey is a follow up to The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris. Her character was introduced in the first book; Lale credits her with saving his life. Cilka’s Journey is HER story of what happened next, after the concentration camps were liberated. Or in her case “liberated”. For the Russian soldiers (should that be Soviet soldiers??) that liberated the camp didn’t free Cilka, but rather interrogated and imprisoned her. Cilka is sentenced to fifteen years at a hard labor camp in Siberia—Gulag. Her crime? Surviving the only way she could—“allowing” the Nazis to rape her. Cilka feels ashamed and burdened by her survival. So many died yet for three years she survived. Cilka fears that life in Siberian labor camps won’t be all that different.
Most of the book tells of her time in Gulag. Focusing on her “easy” job in the hospital. Cilka is fortunate that she is trained in the medical field...to take notes, keep records, check on patients. She excels at whatever task she’s given. So she begins training as a nurse...in the general ward, the maternity ward, the nursery, the fever ward, riding along in the ambulances. Also on the relationships she has with the other prisoners in her hut.
My thoughts: The novel is a compelling, intense read. It is fiction but based on real people and events. It is shocking and incredible—though perhaps it shouldn’t be—that Cilka would be punished and blamed for having survived three years of sexual abuse. Her story is worth reading. Her voice deserves to be heard.
© 2019 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews