Book review: Cilka’s Journey

30 Oct 2019 / 10:33 H.

THOUGH Cilka’s Journey (Zaffre Publication) is a sequel of sorts to author Heather Morris’ celebrated debut novel The Tattooist of Auschwitz, it can also be read as a standalone.

The story is harrowing, poignant and, sometimes, heartwarming.

Cilka Kelin was first introduced by Lale Sokolov, the titular character in The Tattooist, as “the bravest person I ever met” when he met the girl at the dreaded Auschwitz-Birkenau Concentration Camp.

Basing her story on research and interviews with survivors of the Siberian gulags, Morris has written a vivid account of how a beautiful, young woman ended up in the concentration camp at age 16 and was forced to become a Nazi officer’s mistress in order to survive.

When the camp was liberated by the Soviet army, Chilka was accused of being a Nazi collaborator and sent to a prison in Siberia.

There, she tried to help her fellow inmates while having to put up with the resentment of others.

Once again, Cilka found herself going through the same indignities that she had suffered in Auschwitz.

When her intelligence was noticed by a prison doctor, who decided to train her as a nurse, Cilka found that she has a gift for medicine.

Despite all the praise and gratitude she were to receive from her fellow inmates later in life, Cilka’s secret remained a burden she bore for the rest of her life.

What Cilka went through is heartbreaking, but it also leaves you with a sense of wonder. She was a survivor in the truest sense.

This book might help readers understand what women like her had undergone to survive.

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