Cilka’s Journey by Heather Morris is a powerful and heart breaking historical novel with its roots in reality. Lead character Cilka was first encountered in Heather Morris’ previous novel, The Tattooist Of Auschwitz. This book is Cilka’s story.
Cilka’s Journey is set from 1942 to the mid 1950’s. The action is mainly set in the Vorkula Gulag with flashbacks to Auschwitz. It is a heart wrenching novel with a heart of gold at its centre in the form of Cilka. She gives what little she can, whenever she can. Cilka reaches out in kindness.
No one should ever judge anyone who has been in the camps. People did what they did in order to survive. “No one can judge us… There were only two choices: one was to survive. The other was death.” Cilka shows a remarkable strength of character as she detaches her mind from her body. “He can have her body… he cannot have her mind, her heart, her soul.” Serial rape was a weapon of war, used as a form of control by the Nazis and others in authority. There are some hard to read scenes as the weak are overpowered by the strong.
Heather Morris shows the strength of character needed to survive. It is a character that clings to dignity, showing kindness and compassion, and developing loyalty and community. I am full of admiration for Cilka. In her circumstances she did not lose her humanity. “Finding a little hope in the darkness is not a weakness.”
Cilka’s Journey is not a pleasant read. It is hard to witness such cruelty and man’s inhumanity to man. We do need to read it to know what happened and in memory of all the innocents who perished.
I received this book for free. A favourable review was not required and all views expressed are my own.