Krysia: A Polish Girl's Stolen Childhood During World War II by Krystyna Mihulka and Krystyna Poray Goddu

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Krysia: A Polish Girl's Stolen Childhood During World War II by Krystyna Mihulka and Krystyna Poray Goddu

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Category: Children's Non-Fiction
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: John Lloyd
Reviewed by John Lloyd
Summary: For a simple tale that's brilliant in the detail that makes it so different to the expected norm, look no further than this unusual result of Hitler's actions.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 192 Date: January 2017
Publisher: Chicago Review Press
ISBN: 9781613734414

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Most of us would think of Polish children suffering in World War Two because of the Nazi death camps – they and their families suffering through countless round-ups, ghettoization, and transport to the end of the line, where they might by hint or dint survive to tell the horrid tale. But most of us would think of such Polish children as Jewish victims of the Holocaust. This book opens the eyes up in a most vivid fashion to those who were not Jewish. They did not get resettled in the Nazi Lebensraum, but were sent miles away to the East. Krysia's family were split up, partly due to her father being a Polish reservist when the Nazis invaded, and then courtesy of Stalin, who had signed a pact with Hitler dividing the country between the two states, before they turned bitter enemies. Krysia's family, living in the eastern city of Lwow, were packed up and sent – in the stereotypical cattle train – east. And east, and east – right the way across the continent to rural Kazakhstan, and a communal farm in the middle of anonymous desert, deep in Communist Soviet lands. Proof, if proof were needed, that that horrendous war still carries narratives that will be new to us…

And make no mistake about it, Krysia's story is a new one. (Think Trisha, but with a K.) In the many photos we get in this book we see her as a slightly frumpy, slightly severe girl with a most unfortunate bowl cut, her facial expression varying between cynical and sternly determined. But, of course, a lot of her story was not told by a camera. It's down to her memory to bring to us the winters in the farm, where you were provided with a ladder to prop against the snow that you cleared from the dorm door to walk on the surface crust, on a level with your eaves. It's down to her mistakenly wandering about in the night in one instance, thinking bright lights were bringing her and a companion home when they were actually the eyes of starving wolves. It's down to the nine year old's point of view, that conveys the horror of your mother being taken away by interrogation by the NKVD regarding your father's whereabouts and military status, even when there are several thousands of miles between him and you.

And it's down to the author to convey the tribulations that sees the family slowly, inexorably, brought back - not to Europe as you may assume, but at least through to an albeit troubled peacetime. Those troubles aren't any the lighter for this being a book designed for the under-twelves; far from it. What we see need not be deemed solely for the young audience – like the best of books it reaches all ages, and tells anyone of any level of expertise something new. There was me, looking to tick off Kazakhstan on my list of weird countries I've been to – I would have no idea victims of WWII were fetched up there, where potential babies had no hope, where children might if they were lucky be trained in potato sorting, or creating dung cakes for winter fuel, or if they were unlucky, be snatched off to a quick bit of brainwashing in a Soviet orphanage.

What this is, then, is an unexpected, fresh and most unusual story of that War that like as not you have not come across before. What it is, is a narrative of how the entire century changed – where people with a nanny-cum-maid, a French tutor and piano lessons were forced away, and had to struggle to return on crowded trains in wartime, alongside parents that had been stripped of all class and prestige by a Soviet ideal. It shows a point in time that while the war encompassed a lot of the globe, the world these people knew expanded incredibly, as they found foreign corners to reside in afterwards. The book is really quite accessible, and while there's nothing to comment on as regards literary style, the selling point is how fresh and different this familiar-seeming narrative is. I just wish the ending was not so emotionless and abrupt, otherwise this would have reached the highest rating.

Marooned in the Arctic by Peggy Caravantes was another instance of a biography allegedly for children that provided a perfect look at a woman living a life very different to the norm.

Buy Krysia: A Polish Girl's Stolen Childhood During World War II by Krystyna Mihulka and Krystyna Poray Goddu at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Krysia: A Polish Girl's Stolen Childhood During World War II by Krystyna Mihulka and Krystyna Poray Goddu at Amazon.co.uk


Buy Krysia: A Polish Girl's Stolen Childhood During World War II by Krystyna Mihulka and Krystyna Poray Goddu at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Krysia: A Polish Girl's Stolen Childhood During World War II by Krystyna Mihulka and Krystyna Poray Goddu at Amazon.com.

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