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4.7 out of 5
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  • Historical Fiction at its best!

    Cecilia Klein "Cilka" was 16 years old when she was sent to Auschwitz-Birkenau where she spent 3 years. One of the officers picked her for his "wife" and she was given a protected status. She was in charge of a building that housed the sick/dying women who were going to the gas chamber very soon. After the liberation, she was charged with collaboration for sleeping with the enemy and sentenced to 15 years in a Siberian prison. This is the story of Cilka's life in the Siberian prison with flashbacks to when she was in Auschwitz-Birkenau. It is truly a heart-wrenching story of survival, first in the concentrations camps and then trying to survive in horrible conditions in the Siberian prison. This is an extension of The Tattooist of Auschwitz but this book is fine as a stand alone. I loved this book and I would give it more than 5 stars if I could. Thank you NetGalley and St. Martin's Press for the ARC of this fantastic book that is a real page-turner in exchange for an honest review. I highly recommend this book to anyone who is a fan of World War II Historical fiction.

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    37 person found this review helpful

    37 people found this review helpful

    37 of 37 people found this review helpful

  • A Harrowing Read

    From the Kiwi-born author of The Tattooist Of Auschwitz, Cilka’s Journey explores what happened to young Cecilia (Cilka) Klein, imprisoned in the Auschwitz-Birkenau Concentration Camp at the age of 16. Because of her age and beauty, Cilka is singled out by a high-ranking SS officer, separated from the other prisoners, and is forced to endure their attention in order to survive. When the allies appear, Cilka thinks her nightmare is over. Instead, her Russian liberators charge her as a collaborator and sentenced to hard labor in a Siberian Gulag. We follow Cilka’s journey from liberation to re-imprisonment, navigating her new position in a strange and brutal place. Flashbacks provide us with insight into Cilka’s life before the Nazis, and her time in Auschwitz-Birkenau. It’s important to remember that Cilka’s Journey, while based on a real person and actual events, is a work of fiction. Records are sparse, so liberties are taken to flesh out the story. But knowing that doesn’t stop the story from hitting you right in the feels. It goes beyond the atrocities perpetrated by the Nazis and exposes some of the equally brutal ways many victims were treated after the end of the war. It’s a gut-wrenching read and, trust me, your emotions will be all over the place. What I Loved: Heather Morris does a great job of drawing relatable characters, fleshing out their stories in a way that makes you connect with them. She’s also drawn attention to a part of that history that I had no knowledge of - that the Russians continued to victimize survivors for the smallest reasons. Through it all though, there are little glimpses of humanity and hope from unexpected quarters. What I Didn’t Love: I’m going to be brutally honest here. I am not a huge fan of Ms. Morris’s writing style. But, for this type of story, it works. There’s no flowery prose or convoluted metaphors. It’s just plain and to the point. Conclusion: If you’ve read The Tattooist Of Auschwitz, Cilka’s Journey is a no-brainer. If you haven’t, Cilka’s Journey can be read standalone. Just have some tissues handy and be ready to throw the book down in disgust occasionally. Thanks so much to Netgalley, Bookishfirst, and St. Martin's Press for the opportunity to read/review this title!

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    30 person found this review helpful

    30 people found this review helpful

    30 of 30 people found this review helpful

  • Captivating and thought-provoking

    I was captivated by this book right from the beginning. Although aware of the concentration camps, I was not aware of the Russian Gulag in Siberia. This book was aptly titled as Cilka’s life was truly a journey. I am always astounded by both the inhumanity to man done by man and the courage to survive what appears to be a hopeless future. I highly recommend this fascinating and thought provoking book.

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    25 person found this review helpful

    25 people found this review helpful

    25 of 25 people found this review helpful

  • A tragic story of the careless judgement of Cilka.

    Cilka’s Journey moved me more than any other book I’ve read recently. It’s difficult to describe a story that breaks your heart but at the same time shows you what true courage, strength of character and endurance really are. My attention was immediately held captive as I was taken on a journey of torture, starvation, death and heartbreak. However, this was also a story about endurance, survival, love and the resilience of the human spirit. Cilka’s Journey, is brilliantly written and simply outstanding! Cilka’s Journey is a historical fiction novel and is based on the true story of Cecilia “Cilka” Klein who was first introduced to readers in Heather Morris’ book, The Tattooist of Auschwitz. Although this a sequel to that book it can easily be read as a standalone story. Cilka’s Journey is based on interviews with Lale Sokolov (The Tattooist of Auschwitz) as well as interviews with Cilka’s neighbors and testimony from other survivors. It is written in the first person point of view and begins in January of 1945. The story moves between Cilka’s present time, mostly in Vorkuta Gulag, Siberia and her past experiences. These flashbacks are in italics and give brief glimpses into Cilka’s life before being sent to a concentration camp and her inconceivable experiences at Auschwitz-Birkenau. This story begins with the Russian’s arrival at the Nazi concentration camp in Auschwitz-Birkenau where Cilka has been held for almost three years. Rather than being set free, eighteen year old Cilka is detained for questioning. The Russians believe she is a spy because Cilka has adapted to her environment by learning different languages and has survived by doing what she was told by those who imprisoned her. Despite being raped by the Nazis, she is being accused of prostituting herself for the enemy. There is no understanding of the circumstances that Cilka has had to endure nor any empathy for what was done to her since her arrival at the camp at the young age of sixteen. After months of being held prisoner Cilka is convicted of working with the enemy as a prostitute and spy and sentenced to fifteen years of hard labor in Siberia. Cilka is loaded onto a train car filled with other women who are also being unjustly accused. Their crimes range from marrying a foreigner, sewing for a Nazi General’s wife and allowing a Nazi to buy bread from a bakery. Cilka is surrounded by women, children and infants who are sick, starving and dying. As the train continues on the journey to Siberia, Cilka reflects on when she first arrived at Auschwitz with her sister Magda and the events that began three years ago. While on the train, she meets Josie a young sixteen year old girl who is unaware and unprepared for what is to come. Cilka befriends Josie and is determined to look out for her. When Cilka arrives in Vorkuta Gulag, Siberia she soon realizes that she has gone from one inhumane place to another as she faces new and horribly familiar challenges. The prisoners lack food and adequate clothing against the cold. The women are degraded, routinely raped and forced to do hard labor. Despite everything, Cilka is determined to survive. When she meets Dr. Yelena Georgiyevna Cilka is asked to work at the hospital. As she is training to be a nurse, Cilka finds her purpose in helping others. She becomes a voice for the sick and innocent. Cilka becomes close to Dr. Yelena and the people she works with. Over time the women of Hut 29 become her family as they come together to offer support and comfort. Her relationship with Josie continues to grows and Cilka is willing to sacrifice everything, even her freedom to protect her. Despite suffering through so many atrocities, Cilka even finds comfort and love. Cilka’s Journey was an amazing story of courage and hope. Cilka is a strong, determined woman who fearlessly walks into coal mines, is determined to help others and continually chooses to live. She quickly becomes someone you admire and care about. This story is richly detailed and beautifully written. It is an emotional read that deals with mature themes and dark, graphic content. The details can be hard to read but they are essential to understanding the events of this story. This story is also encouraging and inspirational as it highlights the spirit to survive. It is a fast paced book that captures your attention and makes it impossible to put down. I highly recommend this historical fiction book. It’s an unforgettable story that crawls into your heart and soul. I know this book and this story will stay with me for a long time! I highly recommend that you read and experience Cilka’s Journey for yourself! Note-At the end of this book the author, Heather Morris provides a lot of detailed information about how she started writing about Cilka. I would like to thank St.Martens Press & Goodreads for an ARC in exchange for my honest review.

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    2 person found this review helpful

    2 people found this review helpful

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Cilka's Journey

    Almost no words. An emotional horrifying read about women surviving under the worst imaginable circumstances.

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    1 person found this review helpful

    1 people found this review helpful

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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