Cilka’s Journey by Heather Morris
St. Martin’s Press | October 1st, 2019
Cilka is just sixteen years old when she is taken to Auschwitz-Birkenau Concentration Camp, in 1942. The Commandant at Birkenau, Schwarzhuber, notices her long beautiful hair and forces her separation from the other women prisoners. Cilka learns quickly that power, even unwillingly given, equals survival.
After liberation, Cilka is charged as a collaborator for sleeping with the enemy and sent to Siberia. But what choice did she have? And where did the lines of morality lie for Cilka, who was sent to Auschwitz when still a child?
In a Siberian prison camp, Cilka faces challenges both new and horribly familiar, including the unwanted attention of the guards. But when she makes an impression on a woman doctor, Cilka is taken under her wing. Cilka begins to tend to the ill in the camp, struggling to care for them under brutal conditions.
Cilka finds endless resources within herself as she daily confronts death and faces terror. And when she nurses a man called Ivan, Cilka finds that despite everything that has happened to her, there is room in her heart for love.
After being liberated from Auschwitz, Cilka is accused of being a spy because she can speak multiple languages and having slept with the enemy. She’s taken to a Siberian prison where conditions aren’t much better than Auschwitz. She faces many challenges much like in the other place. She begins working in the prisoner’s hospital with a nice female doctor who seems to care for her. Throughout the story, Cilka is faced with death and horrifying things every day, but somehow she still finds somehow that she’s still capable of love.
I loved reading The Tattooist of Auschwitz so much. It was such an inspirational story, so when I saw that Heather Morris wrote a sequel featuring another character from the same book I knew I had to read it and I am so happy that I did. Heather Morris is an amazing author. I have tried to read other books about people who survived Auschwitz and other places like it, and I just couldn’t. She has a way with words that I will always enjoy reading.
You don’t necessarily have to read The Tattooist of Auschwitz before you read Cilka’s Journey, but I highly recommend it. Cilka mentions Lale and Gita (the main characters in The Tattooist of Auschwitz) a couple of times when she is remembering things from the past but for the most part, it’s just about Cilka’s life after Auschwitz in the Siberian prison.
While, yes, this is a dark, sad story, it’s also a story of hope. Cilka’s hope falters many times throughout the story, but I mean who’s wouldn’t in a place like that, especially after already being in Auschwitz. I do promise you this though, you will have a smile on your face at the end of the book.
Like I said before, I would read anything Heather Morris has to offer and I highly encourage you to do the same if you enjoy reading historical fiction.
*This book does have some trigger warnings such as rape, death, and the Holocaust.*
Thank you, NetGalley and St. Martin’s Press for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.