Two great books for you today!
Both historical novels for young people feature Ukrainian protagonists and are based on true events during and prior to WWII.
Working on the book Irena's Children, I learned for the first time the extent of the Nazi war crimes against the Polish people. The total lives lost in Poland during WWII is estimated at least five million most of whom were civilians, about 17% of the population. And now I learn that a similar number of Ukrainians died in the conflict.
Approximately every fifth Ukrainian was killed during the Second World War. Only 3% of all those called up to military service for the summer of 1941 survived. The good news behind these horrendous statistics is the incredible human spirit of those who survived, their courage to rebuild their communities and their country.
It definitely adds context to the endurance of Ukrainians today. This morning I woke up to this report from CNN:
Hundreds of women spied during the Civil War, but as far as we know, only one gathered intelligence inside the house of Jefferson Davis, the Confederate president.
Mary Elizabeth Bowser, born enslaved to the prominent Van Lew family in Richmond, Virgina, worked with one of the Union Army's most intricate spy rings. It was operated by a shrewd Richmond society woman pretending to have lost her mind, so as to escape suspicion among the city's pro-slavery upper crust.
Elizabeth “Crazy Bet” Van Lew started unofficially spying for the North while bringing food and medicine to Union prisoners housed in Richmond, passing notes and helping the men with plans to escape.
As Elizabeth Van Lew expanded her espionage, she saw great possibilities for Mary Browser.
We know only the basic outlines of Mary Browser's life. There are no photographs of her, but...
Now, for my long-promised story about my visit to the site of the Ancient Greek Oracle of Delphi. Before I left on my vacation to Greece, I told friends I would be visiting the oracle and jokingly asked what wisdom they would like me to seek for them.
For are we not much the same as people who lived 10,000 years ago? We have some dilemma, some question or uncertainty that we long to resolve. And wouldn't it be great, if there was someone we could ask who had the wisdom to give us a definitive answer?
Over the centuries many have turned to religious faith for certainty. And in fact, scholars believe Delphi probably originated as a sacred site to worship the Goddess of Earth, Gaia, the ancestral mother of all life back in, oh, about 1600 BCE!
It was profoundly moving to walk the paths of a place that has been sacred ground for 36 centuries. The wisdom I heard there is sobering and also, freeing. And as relevant today as in ancient times.
I had no understanding until recently of "barrage balloons" nor their importance in the success of the Normandy invasion.
And further, I had no idea of the crucial D-Day role played by black soldiers landing on Omaha Beach.
This bit of forgotten history was brought to my attention by long-time newsletter reader Norm Haskett. Norm is the creator of the incredible website The Daily Chronicles of WWII, possibly the most thorough collection of WWII information on the web.
Who better to fill in for me this week while I'm on vacation?
I'm fascinated to discover little-known history, stories of people and events that provide a new perspective on why and how things happened, new voices that haven't been heard, insight into how the past brought us here today, and how it might guide us to a better future.
I also post here about my books and feature other authors and their books on compelling and important historical topics.
Occasionally, I share what makes me happy, pictures of my garden, recipes I've made, events I've attended, people I've met. I'm always happy to hear from readers in the blog comments, by email or social media.