During World War II, when she was eleven years old, the author and her family were arrested in Poland by the Russians as political enemies and exiled to Siberia. She recounts here the trials of the following five years spent on the harsh Asian steppe.
Original publication date
Esther was a happy young girl in Poland, when her world was changed. Her father had a business in Vilna, Poland and the whole extended family lived together in a nice, rambling home surrounding a garden which her grandfather tends meticulously.
In 1940 the Russians, who were then allied with Germany, occupied Vilna. They confiscated the family business and our property, but did not evict us from our house, our garden. … My world was still intact and I had not the slightest premonition that it was about to end.
Until the day the soldiers broke into their home. “… you are capitalists and therefore enemies of the people … you are to be sent to another part of our great and mighty country…”
The flatness of this land was awesome. There wasn’t a hill in sight; it was an enormous, unrippled sea of parched and lifeless grass. “Tata, why is the earth so flat here?” “These must be steppes, Esther.” “Steppes? But steppes are in Siberia.” “This is Siberia,” he said quietly.
Although Esther tells her story in a matter-of-fact way, it is heart-wrenching to picture what her family went through trying to survive. I found this book to have even more impact than The Diary of Anne Frank. (4.2 stars)
An excellent read! A very good book to read as an addition to history class.
Written as a book for young adults, the book is very touching and moving. It is well-written and its descriptions transfer the reader to the steppes of Siberia. I highly recommend this book to young and old alike.
This was one of my favorite books when I was a child. We read it in "gifted and talented" class in the 6th grade and it captured my imagination. It was my first introduction to WWII. I could not imagine having to suddenly leave my home with only a few possessions and live in this way. The book really impacted my life. I read it over 30 years ago and it has stayed with me all this time. I thought of Esther each time I have witnessed places to do with the Holocaust. Striking book. Amazing.
Length? Most of a day.
Characters? Memorable, several characters.
Setting? Real world. World War 2 Poland and Russia.
Written approximately? 1968.
Does the story leave questions in the readers mind? Ready to read more.
Any issues the author (or a more recent publisher) should cover? A little clarification on the grandmothers at the beginning. First chapter was slightly confusing.
Short storyline: A young girl and her parents and grandparents are deported from Poland to Russia during World War 2.
Notes for the reader: I thoroughly enjoyed this story. It delved so deep into the character, who wasn't afraid to have emotions and think before she acted. Then, I looked at the date it was written. 1968. Today, no writer would get past a beta reader with so well written a novel! They'd be told to cut the emotion and add commotion. Not to mention a million other things that would destroy the story.
I think this is a great book, especially for kids, because it's not the typical story of what happened to Jews during WWII, but a much lesser-known (at least to me) experience. I also like it because it's not unrelentingly horrible: much of the family survives, including all the main characters, and throughout the story there are people who treat them relatively well to counterbalance the really awful ones. There are minor joys, like trading at the market. The writing is descriptive and gripping.
I liked it. I didn't know that people were sent to Siberia in exile during the war. It's a bit of a different type of holocaust story because of where it takes place and what happens to Esther and her family.