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:
More than 500 civilians remain in Soledar as Russian and Ukrainian forces continue to struggle for control of the city, according to Pavlo Kyrylenko.
Speaking on Ukrainian television on Thursday morning, Pavlo Kyrylenko, head of the Donetsk regional military administration, said as of now, there are 523 people there. Most of the people left are over 50 years' old, he added, with "no information" that children are among their number.
"It will not be correct if I say that they do not want to leave now. We are doing our best to help people to leave,” said Kyrylenko, adding that evacuation is "just unrealistic" at the moment.
Evacuations will resume “when I know it is possible to get there by special transport and leave from there," he said.
The modern buildings falling to Russian shelling in major cities of Ukraine were constructed atop the devastation of WWII.
"No European country suffered more from the deep wounds inflicted on their cities, their industry, agriculture, human power,” wrote a reporter for the Saturday Evening Post after visiting Ukraine in 1945.
Yes, I am getting to my book recommendations, but first:
Author Marsha Forchuck Skrypuch says, "It's hard to write history when you're dead, which is one of the reasons there are so few novels that explore [WWII] from a Ukrainian or Polish perspective.
The Silent Unseen, by Amanda McCrina explores WWII through the viewpoints of both. A young Ukranian boy, Kostya and a Polish girl, Maria. The sixteen-year-olds meet while making their way home after the war and the story dramatizes the ethnic violence between the Poles and Ukrainians as they both fought the Nazis and Soviets.
I really enjoyed this book and highly recommend it. Maria and Kostya are both compelling, sympathetic characters and based on historical research. I turned page after page in hopes they would overcome the divisions between them.
According to the publisher the story is "Tightly woven, relentlessly intense, [and] depicts an explosive entanglement of loyalty, lies, and love during wartime."
Irresistible, right? I listened to the audio version available through my local library.
Just out this past September is another novel highlighting Ukranian history. Winterkill by Marsha Forchuk Skrypuch is a meticulously researched novel about the Holodomor, Stalin's man-made famine of 1932-1933 designed to erase the Ukrainian people and culture.
From the publisher:
Nyl is just trying to stay alive. Ever since the Soviet dictator, Stalin, started to take control of farms like the one Nyl’s family lives on, there is less and less food to go around.... Alice has recently arrived from Canada with her father, who is here to work for the Soviets…
[The girls] realize something is very wrong.
Desperate, Nyl and Alice come up with an audacious plan that could save both of them—and their community. But can they survive long enough to succeed?
Though written for young people, Winterkill and The Silent Unseen are enjoyed by adults as well. The authors' research into less-well-known history and their grasp of beautiful language and knowledge of the human heart bring context to the events unfolding in Ukraine today.
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.