In 1942 Cilka is just sixteen years old when she is taken to Auschwitz-Birkenau Concentration Camp. Noticed by those in charge because of her beauty and long hair, Cilka is separated from the other women and learns how she can use her beauty to survive. After the war ends, Cilka is ready to pick up her life and try to find her place in the changed world. However, all that comes to a crashing halt when she is labelled as a collaborator and potential spy for sleeping with the enemy, no matter how forced. She is sent to a brutal prison camp, Vorkuta, in Siberia, inside the Arctic Circle for fifteen years hard labour.
In a situation that is all too familiar for Cilka, she finds herself yet again completely innocent, but imprisoned. She is able to draw stark similarities between this camp and the one she had been in previously, with memories coming back to haunt her. When the brigadier overseeing Cilka thrusts pieces of fabric with numbers on them at her to sew onto her clothing, she is reminded harshly of the number she still wears, tattooed into her skin.
But Cilka’s days of hard labour are limited when she makes an impression on a female doctor in the camp. Under this doctor, she learns to treat the other inmates. However, every day is still a battle for survival. She has friends within the group of women who are working hard labour and she must confront death and face terror every single day. But when she nurses a man called Aleksandr, Cilka learns that despite everything, there still might be room in her heart for love.
Cilka’s Journey is the sequel to the International Number One Bestseller The Tattooist of Auschwitz. Based on what is known of Cilka’s time in Auschwitz, and on the experience of women in Siberian prison camps, Cilka’s Journey is a powerful story. Told through flashbacks to Cilka’s time in Auschwitz-Birkenau, alongside her current trials in Vorkuta, we are witness to the atrocities that happened both during the war and afterwards. This is such an important story to tell. It’s easy – and quite often nice– to believe that after the war ended, everything was fine and went back to normal. But Cilka’s Journey tells us this was not the case. Many people still underwent trials for their survival. Heather Morris has done Cilka justice in this amazing and heart-breaking story of survival.
Cilka is an amazing woman. Even after all she went through in Auschwitz-Birkenau, the strength that she shows in Vorkuta is admirable. She is not only strong for herself, but for the other women in her cabin. Her fierce determination to survive, against all odds and at whatever the cost is both awe-inspiring and heart-breaking. Cilka’s Journey is truly a testament to the triumph of the human will in adversity. You will both weep and shake your head in incredulity as you read of Cilka and what truly can only be called her journey. As Lale Sokolov said, “She was the bravest person I ever met”.
About the author
Heather Morris is an Australian writer and social work administrator. For several years, while working in a large public hospital in Melbourne, she studied and wrote screenplays, one of which was auctioned by an Academy-Award winning screenwriter in the US. The Tattooist of Auschwitz is her debut novel.