As German troops and bombs descended upon Poland, Krysia struggled to make sense of the wailing sirens, hushed adult conversations, and tearful faces of everyone around her. Within just days, the peaceful childhood she had known would disappear forever.
Krysia tells the story of one Polish girl’s harrowing experiences during World War II as her beloved father was forced into hiding, a Soviet soldier’s family took over her house, and finally as she and her mother and brother were forced at gunpoint from their once happy home and deported to a remote Soviet work farm in Kazakhstan.
Through vivid and stirring recollections Mihulka details their deplorable conditions—often near freezing in their barrack buried under mounds of snow, enduring starvation and illness, and witnessing death. But she also recalls moments of hope and tenderness as she, her mother, her brother, and other deportees drew close together, helped one another, and even held small celebrations in captivity. Throughout, the strength, courage, and kindness of Krysia’s mother, Zofia, saw them through until they finally found freedom.
Potentially Sensitive Areas: Xenophobia; Harsh realities of war; Starvation
Booklist (December 1, 2016 (Vol. 113, No. 7))
Grades 5-8. Krystyna Mihulka was only nine when Germany bombarded her hometown in eastern Poland; soon after, Russian Communists took over the territory. After her beloved father was forced into hiding, she and her mother and younger brother, deemed political prisoners, were herded onto a cattle car and sent to a work farm in rugged, remote Kazakhstan. Her mother’s gift for barter and the friendships of similarly afflicted families sustained them for two years of extreme hardship and near starvation. Mihulka, now in her late eighties, does her best to convey the experience as perceived by a young girl. Her narrative has undeniable value as a document. As a story intended for a young audience, it does at times fall short and may not effectively keep younger readers hooked. Still, this memoir has power and does the necessary work of prompting readers to try to imagine what it’s like to be among the millions of children undergoing similar upheavals in the war zones of today.
Kirkus Reviews (November 1, 2016)
A young girl endures life as a political prisoner.In 1939, when Krystyna “Krysia” Mihulka was 9, Russia invaded Poland. Her straightforward first-person narration, crafted with the assistance of Goddu, is convincingly childlike though not without the occasional poetic flair. She recounts how her lawyer father went into hiding and Krysia, her mother, and her brother were arrested and forced to leave their beloved home in Lwòw, Poland (now Liviv, Ukraine), and made to take the long, difficult journey to a prison camp in Kazakhstan. As to be expected, life was harsh, but with her mother’s hope and determination to keep her children alive, they survived and left Kazakhstan in 1941, when Germany invaded Russia and amnesty was granted to Polish political prisoners like Krysia and her family. Her mother secured passage to Uzbekistan, where they reunited with family, following which Krysia, her mother, and brother sailed for Persia (modern-day Iran), where they lived in a Polish refugee camp in Tehran. Told in an easy narrative style, Krysia’s story is accessible; she is someone for whom readers will feel empathy while learning about the removal of more than 1.5 million Poles from their homeland. Additional material includes an afterword; an epilogue outlining Krysia’s life from her arrival in Persia to her eventual settling in California in 1969, where she lives today; a map of her journey from Poland to Persia; a Polish pronunciation guide; and an author’s note.Elegant, eye-opening, and memorable. (Memoir. 10-15)
About the Author
Born in 1930, Krystyna Mihulka was deported from Poland to a remote village in Kazakhstan in 1940, where she lived as a political prisoner under Communist rule for nearly two years. After several years in refugee camps in Iran and Africa, she settled in Zambia, where she married and had three children. In 1969 she and her family migrated to the United States. She lives in Pleasant Hill, California, under her married name, Christine Tomerson.
Around the Web
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