Thursday, July 8, 2021

Marsha Forchuk Skrypuch - Stolen Girl

Nadia is haunted by World War II. Her memories of the war are messy, coming back to her in pieces and flashes she can't control. Though her adoptive mother says they are safe now, Nadia's flashbacks keep coming.
Sometimes she remembers running, hunger, and isolation. But other times she remembers living with a German family, and attending big rallies where she was praised for her light hair and blue eyes. The puzzle pieces don't quite fit together, and Nadia is scared by what might be true. Could she have been raised by Nazis? Were they her real family? What part did she play in the war?
What Nadia finally discovers about her own history will shock her. But only when she understands the past can she truly face her future.
Inspired by startling true events, Marsha Forchuk Skrypuch delivers a gripping and poignant story of one girl's determination to uncover her truth.

Comment: Another book I randomly picked at the library, so besides the theme which I was led to infer from the cover art, there wasn't any information about it I knew.

In this very short book we have the story of young Nadia, a girl who is taken to Canada by Marusia, a woman who helped her in a prisoners' camp in Germany during the events of WWII. In order to not be separated, the woman urges Nadia to say she is her mother and they reunite with Marusia's husband Ivan. However, memories still plague Nadia and despite what Marusia and Ivan tell her, that she has never been a Nazi, she can't understand some of the nightmares caused by some memories where it seems she was, indeed, one. But will Nadia have to let go of her traumas to recognize the truth behind those memories?

This book is labeled fiction and upon some information I read here and there, it seems the author writes mostly for children  (or young ages) about the experience of children during the Nazi occupation or the aftermath since her family's experience in being immigrants who traveled to Canada allowed her to have a very specific perspective on this subject. This book I read seemed liked a...condensed and simple child's version of the events which took her from the occupied Ukraine at the time to Canada. It felt like a modified biography so that a child could read.

It seems, though, that this is really just a fiction work, based on true events, but the purpose was precisely to allow younger children to have access to a part of history which is complicated and traumatic but this was written in a way that they could understand and empathize.

One of the "tactics" the author used, besides the small chapters and intentional writing style, was to give readers Nadia's experiences in adapting to Canada while having quick, almost neutral memories from what happened to her, in a way that would impart the struggles but not the worst scenarios that adults might be able to infer. This doesn't mean the story doesn't have its moments in implying how dire the situation was, there are little clues in the book which, if one reads between the lines, still show case the injustices and the terrible acts the Nazis committed, but I don't suppose the aim of this book was to shock.

It was very easy to be sympathetic with Nadia. She is a "good girl" who wants to be thankful top Marusia and Ivan because they helped her and the way her brain processes the traumas allow her to think of the past and cope. Children are, indeed, resilient. Of course a mature reader can understand these things don't really go away, once something marks us, we don't really ignore or forget, but our brain helps us by finding mechanisms to cope. I think Nadia's desire to please those that cared enough to help her and her love for books were great tools to ease her conscience on the things she couldn't undo.

It's not a big book, true, but I think the content is much stronger than what one could imagine. There are no big scenes with traumas or shocking images but the simplicity of Nadia's POV can work with the same effect, I found. Some of the most routine situations she goes through while adapting to Canada were also easy to imagine. All of us had to have a first day in a new school, all of us felt we didn't belong, all of us felt our clothes and our looks were being judged, practically all of us were mocked by other kids at some point... simple things that might not be too meaningful in the long road, but that could feel like the entire world in the moment we live through it...

I think there were some details which feel under looked by the author, though. How did Nadia go from her previous situations to her current one, how come her memory is selective on the things she remembers and the ones she doesn't, how did she go from one situation tot he other...the story begins with her and Marusia in the ship to Canada and the flashbacks don't seem informative enough to complete the picture of Nadia's past life. We learn things but not too much. The end is also a little vague, but since there are other books after this one with characters we see mentioned here, perhaps some more closure happens then.

This book works mostly as a stand alone, though. I think it has enough information and content to make us wonder and it does mention a side of the Nazi doctrine in brainwashing children that isn't as talked about as other things in the majority of the books centered on the Nazi subject or the WWII theme. It was a very interesting book to read, in the good sense of the word.
Grade: 8/10


  1. Glad you enjoyed the novel! Thanks for the considered review.

    1. Dear mrs Skrypuch, thank you so much for taking the time to come here and comment. And thank you for your work, again!
      Kind regards,