By Heather Morris
What would you do if your saviors became your captors? At nineteen that is what happened to Cecilia Kline. The young girl was sent to Auschwitz-Birkenau aboard one of the infamous death trains. Sixteen at the time, she found a way to survive the camp. But when that the Soviets liberated those that survived, they claimed Cecilia, known to her friends as Cilka, was an enemy of the state. Therefore, instead of freedom, Cilka is going from one imprisonment to another – Vorkuta, a Soviet Gulag. Also known as the White Hell, it was located in the Arctic Circle.
She is confused and angry. Only doing what she had to for survival, she is now condemned for the life she was forcibly thrust into by the Nazis. Once again, convicted without a trial she will pay for the perceived crimes of spying, prostitution and working with the enemy. She is sentenced to 15 years hard labor for merely trying to survive the atrocities of the Nazis. Many things in her life are shattered, but not her soul. She is a survivor.
In a place where prisoners rarely survived the extreme cold and backbreaking work, Cilka is befriended by Yelena, one of the doctors working for the Soviets. However, she is different from most of the other doctors. Instead of being assigned to the Gulag because of misconduct or some other offense, she is there because she chose to be there to help those that needed help in the brutal conditions. Yelena soon discovered that Cilka was smart and learned quickly. So began Cilka’s nursing career, which also gave her the knowledge and ability to help her fellow prisoners. Her life was still a living hell, but she found a way to survive.
Because the characters are based upon actual people, their stories impact the readers deeply. The places are real, and bring the readers into the camps. Death and demoralization breaks the characters by chipping away at them physically and mentally until they are mere shadows of themselves. With the help of the author, they will live on in the thoughts and minds of each person that reads this powerful story.
This novel is based on the real life of Cecilia Klein. Copious research has been done by the author to bring her story to life. Ms. Morris personalizes the horrors of the concentration camps as well as the Gulag. It is understood that no one can fully comprehend what happened to millions during the Holocaust, but books like Cilka’s Journey help us remember and warn us to never allow such atrocities to happen again.
Cilka’s Journey is the second book I’ve read by Heather Morris. The first was The Tattooist of Auschwitz. The books can be read in either order. Since Cilka’s Journey is not released until October 1, 2019, you may want to reserve your copy now and then read The Tattooist of Auschwitz first as it is available now.
DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION: I have a material connection because I received a review copy for free from Bookish First in exchange for a fair and honest review. Copyright © 2019 Laura Hartman