By Heather Morris
I hope you enjoy my post and that you find yourself in my words.
This monthly review is about a girl, Cilka Klein whom was an Auschwitz-Birkenau survivor.
The story tells her journey post concentration camp, when she was transferred to a gulag in Siberia, in the North of Russia.
She was taken there by the Russians after being saved from the SS troupes.
Cilka Klein tried to survive by any means, even if it meant being raped by the enemy and then enduring other 15 years of imprisonment in the Gulag being raped again.
She was taken as a prisoner because she was accused of working for the enemy and being a spy.
She accepted everything that happened to her just trying to survive.
In this story we see how she had to bear the cold winters, the hard labor in camp, how she still helped everyone with no drop of selfishness, how she fought and struggled, how she managed to get a better job as a nurse, how she shared her meals, how she managed to trust people again and how she fell in love.
What I find most interesting about this book, and these types of books in general is how these stories could be real, even if they are completely made up.
The Holocaust still happened, all of these tragedies and disgusting things happened so these stories could 100% be true.
But this story is actually based off of true events.
Heather Morris first wrote The Tattooist of Auschwitz after interviewing Lale (The Tattooist) and wrote down his story.
She remained impressed after he mentioned the 16 year old girl who survived Holocaust and the Gulag.
“The strongest person he had ever met” were the words Lale described Cilka with.
So a story about her was very much needed.
And it is truly an inspiring story.
Cilka was a very selfless person.
At first she couldn’t accept the offer for a better job in a hospital, instead of carrying coal from the mine.
Why should she have a better job in warm conditions while her colleagues struggled every day?
Cilka didn’t want them to envy her, to hate her for her luck.
She thought everybody had equal rights and she wouldn’t have accepted because of the jealousy and hate she might get from others.
She fortunately accepted and would keep portions of her food to share with the others after working hours, knowing thew were struggling everyday carrying coal from the mine.
Another characteristic of her’s was how she could never see how many good things she had done.
As time passed she had helped lots of people as a nurse and as a friends and saved lives and yet she felt pressured by the wrongs she had done.
Cilka felt responsible for the death of her colleague and the deaths of the people who didn’t survive Auschwitz.
She considered that every life matters and took time for every patient. When other uninterested and unbothered doctors declared patients that they had no chance to live, she still investigated if there could be a small chance for them and tried saving them.
But her love for people got her in trouble.
Cilka often drew attention to her, because of it and some didn’t like how she was so admired because after all, she was a prisoner.
She could never understand why everyone called her “brave”: Lale, Hannah, every friend from Shack 29.
She looked people right in the eyes showing how she doesn’t fear them, not even a bit.
Once, Cilka took the blame when there was found contraband in the shack, even if it wasn’t her’s. And she was sent to “The hole”.
The hole was a terrible place with no light, no food, no water, no one around to hear your screams and it was placed in such a position you could never sit comfortably.
It was made to be the perfect torture room.
The people that went there were scarred forever. They couldn’t talk for weeks and some couldn’t get out of bed days in a row. Knowing that Cilka couldn’t let her friend go into the Hole, so she took the blame, enduring her torture.
Things I will never forget from the book
Some things that shocked me along the book were the savagery and cruelty of the people there. How such things change you and make you do things you never imagined you would do to survive.
The first things that moved me was how the women were all told to undress and were sprayed with water hoses by male officers who mocked them about how they stood, how their bodies looked.
They pointed the hose towards the weaker or older ones, so that the pressure knocked them off. They laughed not helping them get up or to check if they were hurt badly.
Then their clothes were left behind, never to be seen again, to go into the next room.
There, they had to raise their knee up to be shaved in the pubian area with brutality and ignorance by another male officer.
Cilka had the courage to look him in the eyes, trying to show she isn’t scared.
As a punishment she was left with blood running down her leg from the rough officer.
After all of that torture they had to walk and parade in front of privileged male prisoners, that chose their victim and were classified as their property for their time there and for them to rape whenever they wanted.
I love how she used a love interest to give us hope about the future. Cilka starts falling for Alexandr without ever speaking to him and besides all of the horrible things around, we could focus and place our hope that she could be happy, with him in the end.
She also made it a slow burn, we could see the attraction between the two and somehow nothing happened, none of them dared to make a move.
It was truly frustrating and as I was reading I was hoping Alexandr will notice her or that she will talk to him.
I think this is why love exists.
It makes people want to survive and continue.
I am talking about all kinds of love, the love for a friend, for your mother, for a dog, for dancing or of being alive.
It is what makes people wake up every day and have hope in a cruel world.
What I love about life stories so much is how inspiring they are.
How we could find ourselves in situations and relate.
How a part of us gets attached to the characters and I feel as if I am there with them, almost as a guardian angel or a ghost watching from above.
I love how I absorb every word and feel their every pain, every tear.
I love how a part of her soul will forever be with me, how I will continue my journey and she will still be there impacting and influencing me.
But I hate endings.
I hate them so much that I used to read the last page to make sure everything will be fine, that the main character is going to have the happy ending they deserve.
I hate the bittersweet taste of it, because I am happy that they will be alright, but it is the sorrow because I have to say goodbye.
I hate how I can’t go on and continue the journey with them.
How they say “They lived happily ever after” and I won’t be able to be part of that. To feel their happiness and be there for them as I was in their worst times.
As if my stop has come, and I have to get off while they continue the ride without me.
I believe this is the worst feeling in the world.
While reading the last pages my heart was filled with hope, fear, uncertainty and sadness. I read so fast I may have accidentally skipped a few rows, just wanting to be sure everything is going to end alright.
That Cilka has her happy ending.
Until the next reading