Heart-Wrenching. Powerful. Brutal. Incredible.
The stories of those who went through the Holocaust and other travesties continue to be published into books. Their accounts inspire people and prove that humans are stronger than we sometimes think we are. Even though The Tattooist of Auschwitz gives details on some of the horrors that occurred in the infamous camp, the book spoke to me and showed me how the power of love could make all the terrible, horrific situations fade into the background. The Tattooist of Auschwitz also motivated me to start working for an organization called Helping Hand Coalition, which aids Holocaust survivors in Israel.
When I learned that Heather Morris was writing a sequel that would focus on the life of Cilka, I grew very excited! Cilka’s character in The Tattooist of Auschwitz was one that stood out to me. At the end of the book, I found myself wanting to know what happened to her after Auschwitz was liberated; however, when I began to read her story, I felt my heart breaking and my eyes filling with tears at the things this young girl had to go through.
“But she — she will live. She doesn’t know why she has always been sure of that, why she feels she can persist — keep picking up this needle even though it’s as heavy as a brick, keep sewing, keep doing what she has to do — but she can.” ~ Heather Morris
Cilka’s Journey is an incredible book of survival, hope, perseverance, and strength. As I read this novel in my comfortable bed, I couldn’t begin to imagine what these women went through. The book didn’t shy away from any gruesome details and showed just how brutal and terrifying their lives were. Nevertheless, I know that the descriptions cannot begin to describe what went through the mind of each of the women who were sentenced to labor camps at the end of World War II. The war might have been over between the countries, but fighting still raged on in the camps and prisons where thousands of innocent people were held against their will!
“His eyes seem to see nothing. He is a man whose soul has died and whose body is waiting to catch up with it.” ~ Heather Morris
This novel begins where The Tattooist of Auschwitz finished. Auschwitz has been liberated, Lale and Gita have fled, and Cilka is sent to Siberia to serve fifteen years in the biggest, toughest labor camp in the Soviet Union after being put on trial for “sleeping with the enemy.” Going from one terror to the next, Cilka continues to fight for her survival while continuing to question why she is still alive. The road is rough, cold, barren, and treacherous, but even in the worst conditions, Cilka will demonstrate why Lale told Heather Morris, “She was the bravest person I ever met. Not the bravest girl, the bravest person.”
“‘It’s time to live now, Cilka,’ he says. ‘Without fear, and with the miracle of love.’ ‘Is that a poem?’ she asks him, smiling through her tears. ‘It’s the beginning of one.’” ~ Heather Morris
*Thank you, NetGalley and the publisher, for providing me with a digital copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.*
Disclaimer: The strong language in this book was only at the beginning; however, this is not a sweet, lovely story! Cilka’s Journey portrays life in the labor camps in a real, raw way! If you’re looking for a book that makes you happy and gets your heart leaping for joy, this is not one of them; nevertheless, it’s a story that needs to be read!