WOW! I just completed Cilka’s Journey by Heather Morris, her second book. It was as mindboggling as The Tattooist of Auschwitz, her first. The story is true but the author did not meet her subject. The story is based on interviews with Lale Sokolov, the subject of her first book, plus extensive research into the Russian Gulag and Cilka’s life.
Cecilia “Cilka” Klein was arrested by the Nazis in 1942 and sent to Auschwitz-Birkenau Concentration Camps (in Poland) where she did whatever she had to in order to survive. The rest of her immediate Slovakian family did not survive. It was there that Cilka met and befriended Lale and his wife Gita. After being “liberated” by the Russians in 1945, Cilka ended up in Vorkuta Gulag in Siberia where she survived for 10 years before being released.
While in Vorkuta, Cilka may have been trained to be a nurse by a sympathetic Georgian female doctor. It was there that she met the man that became her husband. After their release, she and her husband returned to Slovakia where they lived together for 50 years or so. They had no children.
She also may have made many other friends. In both prisons, Cilka also made many enemies. Readers will become acquainted with many of both.
This is an extraordinary story of self-preservation, love and hope. I cannot understand how the Nazis and the Stalinists could live with themselves after treating people the way they did. The two books are HIGHLY RECOMMENDED. Read with tissues at your side.
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–Jim Harris, retired book sales rep
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