Cilka’s Journey – Book Review

Cilka's Journey: The Sunday Times bestselling sequel to The Tattooist of Auschwitz by [Heather Morris]

Title:- Cilka’s Journey

Author :- Heather Morris

Genre:- Historical Fiction

Date published:- October 1st 2019

Publisher:- Zaffre


Don’t miss the conclusion to The Tattooist of Auschwitz Trilogy, Three Sisters. Available now.

‘She was the bravest person I ever met’
Lale Sokolov, The Tattooist of Auschwitz

In 1942 Cilka Klein is just sixteen years old when she is taken to Auschwitz-Birkenau Concentration Camp. The Commandant at Birkenau, Schwarzhuber, notices her long beautiful hair, and forces her separation from the other women prisoners. Cilka learns quickly that power, even unwillingly given, equals survival.

After liberation, Cilka is charged as a collaborator by the Russians and sent to a desolate, brutal prison camp in Siberia known as Vorkuta, inside the Arctic Circle.

Innocent, imprisoned once again, Cilka faces challenges both new and horribly familiar, each day a battle for survival. Cilka befriends a woman doctor, and learns to nurse the ill in the camp, struggling to care for them under unimaginable conditions. And when she tends to a man called Alexandr, Cilka finds that despite everything, there is room in her heart for love.

Cilka’s Journey is a powerful testament to the triumph of the human will. It will move you to tears, but it will also leave you astonished and uplifted by one woman’s fierce determination to survive, against all odds.

Content Warning:- Rape, Brutality, Injuries

This is actually the second installment of the Tattooist of Auschwitz, which I read and reviewed. Cilka is mentioned in the first book but in this book describes the life of Cilka Klein after the liberation of Auschwitz.

When Auschwitz was liberated, Cilka thought she will be finally free and can go home. But the Soviets labeled her as a Nazi conspirator and sentenced to fifteen years of hard labor in a Gulag camp, located in Vorkuta, Siberia near Arctic Circle. Amid of the brutal and harsh prison conditions and dealing with freezing winters, Cilka soon finds friends in this desolated camp and meets Yelena, a doctor. Soon, she learns to become a nurse and while treating a fellow patient named Alexander, she realizes her heart is in love.

Let’s talk about writing first. This is based on the true story of Cilka Klein, who is actually a friend of Gita and Lale, the two lovers we come across in the Tattooist of Auschwitz. I have to say this, if this book is indeed a true story, you must admire Cilka’s bravery and determination and will to survive. The author has done tremendous research about the conditions of Gulag camps, how the prisoners worked under brutal conditions and some became malnourished and would die due to lack of food or even lack of sleep. I have read so much about Auschwitz but now after reading this, Gulag camps sounded much more terrible to me. Reading this book made me feel sorry for Cilka and admired how brave and courageous she was to endure such hardships. There were some parts in the book that were too disturbing to read but what more disturbing is that these things happened in real life. There were details of how women were treated brutally, how the guards treated the prisoners and how on the nights the guards enter the hut of women and rape them.

My most favorite part in the book is when Cilka befriends a doctor named Yelena and how she become a part of the hospital crowd, acting as the nurse though she had no prior experience before. Eventually, Cilka’s life changed a little when she starts to find love with a man named Alexander who comes for the treatment at the hospital. The author has written so beautifully, with the vivid descriptions. To me, I felt like I was in a part of the story going through with Cilka.

Cilka Klein’s true story and life really captivated me. Being Jewish, her happy family life changed drastically when Nazis invaded Czechslovakia with her being transported to Auschwitz. Her beauty captivated a certain Nazi commandant, who used her and gave her privileges. However, Cilka is very loyal and true friends, which you will see in this book. And even after her harsh life in Auschwitz, Cilka’s life changed from bad to worse when Soviets condemned her as a Nazi conspirator and sentenced to fifteen years of hard labor in Vortuk. Seriously, if that happened to me, I would rather die. But Cilka was determined to live, endure hardships and I have to say, she is one of the courageous and bravest characters I have read in the book. And truly emotional and heartbreaking as well.

Here’s why you should read this book

  • Because this book is based on true story
  • You could actually read about brutal conditions of slave labor camps that existed in Soviet Union

Overall, this is a truly emotional, heartbreaking story that will captivate your heart–Cilka’s life will truly make you cry. Worth five stars!

Heather Morris is a native of New Zealand, now resident in Australia. For several years, while working in a large public hospital in Melbourne, she studied and wrote screenplays, one of which was optioned by an Academy Award-winning screenwriter in the US. In 2003, Heather was introduced to an elderly gentleman who ‘might just have a story worth telling’. The day she met Lale Sokolov changed both their lives. Their friendship grew and Lale embarked on a journey of self-scrutiny, entrusting the innermost details of his life during the Holocaust to her. Heather originally wrote Lale’s story as a screenplay – which ranked high in international competitions – before reshaping it into her debut novel, The Tattooist of Auschwitz.

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