Cilka's Journey (Hardcover)
St. Martin's Press, 9781250265708, 352pp.
Publication Date: October 1, 2019
From the author of the multi-million copy bestseller The Tattooist of Auschwitz comes a new novel based on a riveting true story of love and resilience.
Her beauty saved her — and condemned her.
Cilka is just sixteen years old when she is taken to Auschwitz-Birkenau Concentration Camp in 1942, where the commandant immediately notices how beautiful she is. Forcibly separated from the other women prisoners, Cilka learns quickly that power, even unwillingly taken, equals survival.
When the war is over and the camp is liberated, freedom is not granted to Cilka: She is charged as a collaborator for sleeping with the enemy and sent to a Siberian prison camp. But did she really have a choice? And where do the lines of morality lie for Cilka, who was send to Auschwitz when she was still a child?
In Siberia, Cilka faces challenges both new and horribly familiar, including the unwanted attention of the guards. But when she meets a kind female doctor, Cilka is taken under her wing and begins to tend to the ill in the camp, struggling to care for them under brutal conditions.
Confronting death and terror daily, Cilka discovers a strength she never knew she had. And when she begins to tentatively form bonds and relationships in this harsh, new reality, Cilka finds that despite everything that has happened to her, there is room in her heart for love.
From child to woman, from woman to healer, Cilka's journey illuminates the resilience of the human spirit—and the will we have to survive.
About the Author
Praise For Cilka's Journey: A Novel…
Praise for The Tattooist of Auschwitz:
“Based on a true story, the wrenching yet riveting tale of Lale’s determination to survive the camp with Gita is a moving testament to the power of kindness, ingenuity, and hope.” —People
“The Tattooist of Auschwitz is the story of hope and survival against incredible odds and the power of love.” —PopSugar
“The Tattooist of Auschwitz is an extraordinary document..I find it hard to imagine anyone who would not be drawn in, confronted and moved. I would recommend it unreservedly to anyone, whether they’d read a hundred Holocaust stories or none.” —Graeme Simsion, internationally-bestselling author of The Rosie Project
Conversation Starters from ReadingGroupChoices.com
1. After reading the author’s note about her conversation with Lale Sokolov, the Tattooist of Auschwitz, did knowing that Cilka’s story is based on a real person change your reading experience? Does the author weave fact and realistic fiction into the story effectively? In what ways?
2. What drew you to this time period and novel? What can humanity still learn from this historical space—from the front lines of an infamous concentration camp to the brutal Russian Gulags?
3. “What you are doing, Cilka, is the only form of resistance you have— staying alive. You are the bravest person I have ever known, I hope you know that.” (Chapter 32) Is Lale right? Is Cilka brave, and were her acts of resistance the best course of action she had? What does Cilka feel guilty about or complicit in? How is she suffering because of it?
4. “Another number. Cilka subconsciously rubs her left arm; hidden under her clothing is her identity from that other place. How many times can one person be reduced, erased?” (Chapter 3) How would you answer Cilka here? What inner fire allows Cilka to live? How does she endure with so much death and suffering around her?
5. Does Cilka assume a protective role for the women in her hut? For her block at the camp? In what ways is Cilka a target for their rage and a focus for their hopes for life beyond the fencing? How does she help the women survive the toughest parts of their sentences (the rapes, work, injuries, separation)?
6. Why do the women invest their time and scarce energies into “beautifying” the hut with their meager resources? What does this tell us about the human spirit?
7. In what ways is Cilka’s time served in the maternity ward a turning point? How does she intervene with her patients and make a difference? How does she put herself at risk?
8. How does Cilka find her calling with her ambulance work? How did she spur others to be their best selves?
9. Why does Cilka ultimately tell her hut-mates about her experiences and actions at Auschwitz? How does she know the time is right?
10. Why are women’s voices of wartime so important to unearth and tell?
11. What could be lost when they are unreported or underreported?