Mama is dead, Baby Emil is dead and Stalin’s new rules are breaking up the family. Papa must stay behind and hide as 12-year-old Katya and her three younger siblings find their way to freedom in East Prussia. With Mama’s sister, Aunt Helena, they board a train and flee for a new home with an aunt and uncle they’ve never met—relatives who don’t want them.
But when they reach the border, Soldiers won’t let Aunt Helena cross. That forces Katya to take responsibility for her siblings. What will life hold for Katya, her two sisters and her brother when they arrive in East Prussia? How long before Papa can rescue them?
He who forgets history is doomed to repeat it.
I’d like to rephrase this, with a quote from Rudyard Kipling. “If history was taught in the form of stories, it would never be forgotten.”
The root word of history is ‘story.’ Story comes first. When I do signings, I sign with “Enjoy his her story.” I don’t think writing stories set in the past is much different than writing stories set in the future. Both are about imagined worlds. One builds on research, the other builds on dreams. Both are about world-building.
I never thought of myself as much of a history buff. I was always more interested in the psychology of people. Writing these stories is my way of exploring who my mother was. The history merely supplied the plotline. I had to explore her past to get at who she was in the present. She’s passed on now, but our relationship, once rocky, did develop to the point where I am reconciled with who she was.
I usually listen to the CBC while puttering with necessary housework. The stories about the residential schools is especially interesting. Even though residential schools have been closed down, their impact is still felt by the children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. This is how history repeats itself. Not through the dates and places of great battles, but through people interacting with each other in their homes and with their family. Broken spirits can only be mended by opening the wound and letting the poison out. This is what I’m trying to do with my Katya stories. I’m trying to make history personal. Often we tell stories to heal wounds. What better way to prepare for the future, for the unknown, than through a story of yesterday?
About the author:
Gabriele Goldstone inherited scattered bits of her mother’s memories, shadowed by the oppression of both Stalin and Hitler. She shaped them into the life of the fictional character, Katya Halter. Gabriele traveled to Ukraine and searched through former KGB files to find missing pieces—along with the red stone that symbolizes Katya's home. Gabriele lives in Winnipeg, Manitoba.