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Cilka's Journey: A Novel
by Heather Morris

Published: 2019-10-01
Hardcover : 352 pages
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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 ...

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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.

Editorial Review

No editorial review at this time.



Auschwitz Concentration Camp, January 27, 1945
Cilka stares at the soldier standing in front of her, part of the army that has entered the camp. He is saying something in Russian, then German. The soldier towers over the eighteen-year-old girl. “Du bist frei.” You are free. She does not know if she has really heard his words. The only Russians she has seen before this, in the camp, were emaciated, starving—prisoners of war. ... view entire excerpt...

Discussion Questions

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? How was this story unique in its voice and characters?

3. Is Cilka’s prison sentence in Vorkuta as punishment for “sleeping with the enemy” in the concentration camp cruel? Was she forced into this role in order to survive as a mere sixteen-year-old girl? How might Cilka’s outward behavior compare to her inner intentions?

4. “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?

5. Could you imagine having the fortitude to survive one death sentence and then another? How do these two hells—the camp and the prison— compare? Were your perceptions challenged or expanded on what life in the Gulag was like after reading this book? In what ways?

6. What strategies does Cilka use to survive? Which ones does she teach the others, including Josie? How could her body be her ticket? What does she sacrifice in giving of her body but not her mind?

Notes From the Author to the Bookclub

No notes at this time.

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On my blog, www.kerrinsbookreviews.com, I review books and make recipe suggestions. Check out my article called To Russia With Love for White Russian cocktail and Borscht recipes. http://www.kerrinsbookreviews.com/to-russia-with-love/

Member Reviews

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by Kim R. S. (see profile) 04/25/21

by Patti R. (see profile) 03/15/21

by Lucy M. (see profile) 11/14/20

by Jen R. (see profile) 08/14/20

by Christie L. (see profile) 05/01/20

by cheryl H. (see profile) 09/22/19

Currently reading the Advanced Readers Copy of Cilka’s Journey—such an education. For the survivors of the Concentration Camps, I believed their hell had come to an end. I no longer be... (read more)

  "A Harrowing Journey"by KERRIN P. (see profile) 09/12/19

Like many others, I was fascinated by Heather Morris’ book, The Tattooist of Auschwitz about Lale Sokolov. During their time together, Mr. Sokolov told Heather Morris that Cilka Klein “w... (read more)

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