2 Following


There seems to always be more evidence of evil, but hope often survives.

"Cilka's Journey" - Heather Morris

Cilka and her sister Magda went to work for the Germans when she was 16 years old. It was not a choice, it was a command. They were both sent to Auschwitz-Birkenau. Magda did not survive, but Cilka was chosen to be the Commandant’s woman and was afforded better living conditions and better food. She was put in charge of the block that housed the women condemned to death. These female prisoners were frail and beaten and often went like sheep to the slaughter, the description used to describe the Jews during the Holocaust. Yet, what choice did they have. They had no way to fight back; the citizens that witnessed their degradation turned a blind eye to what was happening to them, and when they were “resettled”, they were starved and weakened by the inhumane conditions. Cilka spoke harshly to the women she was in charge of because she had to, in order to survive, but she tried to be kind to them when no one was watching. Still, she was helpless to prevent their deaths. She led them to the trucks that would take them to the place they would be murdered, in order to save herself. When the war was over, Cilka was sent to Siberia because she was charged with collaborating with the Germans, with sleeping with the enemy. In fact, she had no choice. If she had refused to sleep with the commandant, she would probably have been murdered herself. No prisoner in Auschwitz had a choice about anything. Cilka was a prisoner. In Siberia, Cilka was chosen to be trained as a nurse. This opportunity provided her with better food and living conditions, however, most of the time she preferred to be in the hut she shared with her fellow prisoners because they had become friends. She also went out with the ambulance to rescue the injured and even went into the mine, under extremely dangerous conditions in order to rescue the trapped miners when there was a collapse or explosion. Many accidents occurred in the mines which had inadequate safety procedures. She was brave and risked her life often, to save others. Still, she harbored tremendous guilt because of what she had done in the Concentration Camp. When someone accused her of having blood on her hands, she collapsed in the snow and tried to scrub it off, although of course, it was only an accusation, and in fact, her hands were clean. This is Cilka’s story. It is part fact and part fiction. It is not an easy read because even when one thinks they know all there is to know about evil in the world, there is always more to be discovered. She was just a teen when she went to the camp and only 18 when she was sent to Siberia. She was alone, had no family or friends, and was forced to grow up and confront the face of evil before she even had a chance to experience much of the brighter side of life. Yet her happy memories often did sustain her. The Russians rivaled the Germans when it came to brutality. In Siberia, they worked the prisoners to death for long hours, fed them small quantities of poor quality food and housed them in buildings that were poorly built and inadequately insulated to withstand the harsh weather. It was not much different than the merciless treatment of prisoners that existed under the Germans. Many prisoners sickened and died. If a prisoner made a mistake or disobeyed a rule or angered a superior, the punishment was often violent and barbaric. Many did not survive. Although it is based on the life of a real person, the author has taken great liberty to create a narrative to bring her to life. Still, the basic idea is front and center. Cilka was maligned and unjustly punished, but Cilka was also brave and strong and she survived. She symbolizes the unjust treatment of Jews during the Holocaust and Russia’s unjust treatment of the political prisoners afterward, in the countries that Russia controlled while Stalin was in power. Kruschev made changes when he rose to power that helped Cilka have a second chance at life.