I received an ARC of Cilka’s Journey by Heather Morris through bookishfirst.com and I was really excited – which I’m aware is not the correct word for a story about surviving the Holocaust and Soviet Gulags – to receive it. I have not read Morris’ previous work, The Tattooist of Auschwitz, but I didn’t feel lost or confused at all. Morris does a skillful job of informing us of what happened previously, so I didn’t feel like I had missed something (though The Tattooist is very high on my TBR!)
The book begins with the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau by the Russians. She had spent her past three years as a sexual slave for an SS Officer. She is charged by the Russians for sleepign with the enemy, and is sentenced to 15 years of hard labor in a Siberian Gulag.
This is an era of history that I don’t know much about, and really only saw in Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys. Morris uses her narrative skills to weave together her extensive research on the real-life Cilka to paint a horribly realistic portrait of life in Siberia. Cilka is so, so resilient and her growth was phenomenal to witness. Her strength is an inspiration.
This is a very difficult and important read. We have vowed #neveragain, but yet people are living in modern-day gulags for a number of reasons. This book is both a reflection of the best parts of humanity, and also of the brutality of mankind. This book was a 4.5/5 star read for me, and I hope you pick it up on October 1!