It’s especially cold and snowy, that last winter of the Second World War. With the Red Army expected to thunder through the Third Reich at any moment, a sense of doom pervades Katya’s world where everyone is expected to believe in the Nazi’s final victory. At the end of January, 1945, East Prussian civilians are finally given permission to flee. Having spent the war years working at an ammunition factory, Katya joins her two sisters, and thousands of others, trekking with overloaded wagons along crowded, snowy roads. They’re trying to reach ships waiting along the Baltic coast. They don’t make it. Instead, Katya’s separated from her sisters and forced to take a long and shameful journey back into the Soviet Union, a country that once labelled her kulak and destroyed her family home. Katya’s dragged into a labour camp deep in the Ural Mountains. Here, with her Russian language skills from childhood, she’s elevated to a leadership position as a starosta. It’s a position fraught with danger as she navigates the two enemy worlds. Katya learns to eat crow, to find love, and to believe in herself.
Gabriele Goldstone writes the books she wishes she could have read while growing up in Winnipeg, Manitoba - as the self-conscious firstborn of postwar immigrants. Visit her at gabrielegoldstone.blogspot.com to learn more about the research behind her novels and to follow her historical meanderings.