Author: Krystyna Mihulka  with Krystyna Poray Goddu
Publisher: Chicago Review Press
ISBN: 978-1-61373-441-4

Imagine - you are seven and a half years old.  Your father is the Chief Justice of an Appellate Court.  Your mother holds degrees in chemistry and philosophy.  Your home has a little garden at the back and you live in a city in Austria that is filled with cultural and historical significance.  Your childhood is fun and generous and life is good.  But on March 12, 1938, the music on the radio is interrupted with the news that “Hitler has marched into Austria.”  When you go to school, you learn to drop into newly-dug trenches when sirens blared and carry a mask everywhere you go. The radio was always on at home and the loud, rasping and ominous voice of the man called Hitler and the reactions you saw in your parents faces terrified you.  And that was just the beginning.

Memoir writer Krystyna Mihulka with able assistance from Krystyna Poray Goddu has a unique ability to transport the reader to the world of her childhood.  We do not *read* a story about little Krysia, we *are* Krysia.  We are seven and a half, then eight and then nine as we endure famine, rides in cattle cars to Russia; experience separation from father; meet fear, face-to-face when threats of orphanage-placement enter conversations by ‘officials,’ and terrifying fear when mother doesn’t return for hours from “interrogation”; learn economics through experiences with the black market in order to survive; encounter grief when infant sister dies at birth and is buried in Kazakhastan and cousin dies of typhus and is buried in Yangi Yul; learn geography by travelling by another cattle car into Turkmenistan, across the Kyzylkum Desert (north of Persia and west of Afghanistan; gain isight into politics by personal exposure to Stalinism and Nazism.

There is much in the news today about immigrants and refugees, refugee camps, visas and entry-permits, but what is really known about the journey such people endure?Deported from Poland as a child to a life of that of a prisoner in a remote village on the dry grasslands (steppes) of Kazakhstand under Communist rule for nearly two years and then as a refugee in the mountains and deserts of Persia and the jungles of Africa, the author knows.   And she remembers.  

To 'remember' is one thing.  To write a Memoir about those experiences is quite another matter.  This book, for young readers and adults, is beautifully written.  Weaving family and world history together, the authors’ insight and storytelling skills are a special gift to the reader.  Recalling each incident was painful for Krystyna Mihulka and she was ready to give up but “with tears rolling down my cheeks,” she persevered.  She believed that her story was not just her story, but the story of those who lost so much in WW11 and particularly those who were deported to Russia in the darkness of night.  The author believed that she had a responsibility to write the book in the hopes that her words would help “keep history from repeating itself.” 

One can only hope she is right.