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Earlier in the year, I read The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris and loved it. Within that book, there was another character, Cilka, who survives her time in Auschwitz because one of the commanders of Auschwitz chooses her to sleep with. Obviously, she did not have a choice in this, but it did save her life. In the latest book, Cilka’s Journey by Heather Morris, we see what happens to Cilka after the camps are liberated.
About Cilka’s Journey
When the Soviet soldiers liberate Auschwitz, they interview Cilka and determine her to be an enemy of the state because she slept with Nazi commanders. Cilka is in disbelief. She is loaded onto a train car with many other enemies of the state and sent to a prison camp in Siberia. The journey takes many days, and several of the women on the car with Cilka die because the journey is so arduous.
Cilka is in despair that she survived Auschwitz only for the Russians to condemn her. The male prisoners repeatedly rape the female prisoners. They are forced to endure hard labor in the bitter cold. Cilka does not know how she’ll endure her 15 year sentence.
One day, her good friend at the camp, Josie, burns her hand on the stove when another woman pushes her. Cilka takes Josie to the hospital, and there Cilka’s life changes. The doctor on duty notices that Cilka speaks many languages. She asks Cilka to come back the next day and scribe for the doctors.
Cilka does, and she never works hard labor again. Her job at the hospital is truly a turning point in her life and makes her long sentence more bearable.
My Thoughts on Cilka’s Journey
Morris learned of Cilka from Lale, the tattooist of Auschwitz. However, Lale was an old man by then, and both Cilka and her husband had already passed away. Morris weaves this story together through Lale’s memories of Cilka, Morris’ own research on Cilka’s life, and historical details about the Soviet prison.
For all of these reasons, I consider this a work of fiction based on true events. This is an excellent book that made me want to read more about the Soviet prisons and all of the poor people who survived German death camps only to find themselves prisoners of the Russians.
I give this book 5 out of 5 stars on the Mom’s Plans’ scale.