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In this follow-up to The Tattooist of Auschwitz, the author tells the story, based on a true one, of a woman who survives Auschwitz, only to find herself locked away again.

Cilka Klein is 18 years old when Auschwitz-Birkenau is liberated by Soviet soldiers. But Cilka is one of the many women who is sentenced to a labor camp on charges of having helped the Nazis--with no consideration of the circumstances Cilka and women like her found themselves in as they struggled to survive. Once at the Vorkuta gulag in Sibera, where she is to serve her 15-year sentence, Cilka uses her wits, charm, and beauty to survive.

352 pages, Hardcover

First published October 1, 2019

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About the author

Heather Morris

15 books7,119 followers
I am a Native of New Zealand now resident in Australia, working in a large public hospital in Melbourne. For several years I studied and wrote screenplays, one of which was optioned by an academy award winning Screenwriter in the U.S. In 2003, I was introduced to an elderly gentleman "who might just have a story worth telling". The day I met Lale Sokolov changed my life, as our friendship grew and he embarked on a journey of self scrutiny, entrusting the inner most details of his life during the Holocaust. I originally wrote Lale's story as a screenplay - which ranked high in international competitions - before reshaping it into my debut novel, The Tattooist of Auschwitz.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 10,975 reviews
Profile Image for Angela M .
1,277 reviews2,213 followers
August 31, 2019
I loved The Tattooist of Auschwitz. After I read the book I read that there were questions concerning the veracity of this book. I did not read this as a work of nonfiction, but rather a work of fiction based on real events. I certainly get that there may be inaccuracies, but the spirit of the novel worked for me. A message that must be conveyed - the importance of never forgetting the horrific things that happened. Things that we have to be reminded of because there are so few Holocaust survivors left, because of the rise of antisemitism in the world, and because there is a lack of awareness of the Holocaust among young people. There are, I’m certain, many nonfiction books and documents covering the Holocaust and the Siberian Gulags , but I’ve never been a big reader of nonfiction. For me, and this is just my personal experience, it has been mostly Holocaust fiction that has has opened my eyes to the atrocities and has broken my heart with immensity of the loss of so many people. If a work of fiction can do that, in my opinion it is worth reading. It is with this view that I read Cilka's Journey and that I high recommend it. I appreciate that Heather Morris tells the reader upfront that the book is a work of fiction. In a note at the end, she explains what is fact and what is fiction. With my defense of this book as fiction, I should add that there are memoirs that I hold in my heart and believe that everyone should read. Night, The Diary of Anne Frank: And Related Readings, But You Did Not Come Back to name a few.

It’s unimaginable that a young girl could survive the horrific Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp for three years after being subjected to sexual abuse, forced to do unthinkable things in order to stay alive and then be sentenced to fifteen years in a Gulag in Siberia for aiding the enemy. Heather Morris enables us to imagine these horrors and takes us to both of these places in this novel. Moving back and forth between Cilka’s flashbacks of Auschwitz-Birkenau and her present Siberia, we are seamlessly taken from place to place, from time to time. Sometimes it’s a thought, a dream , or a present ugly reminder that takes Cilka and us back and forth . It is difficult and uncomfortable and necessary for us to see and imagine how horrible it was. I’m not going to detail any of that here, but will just say that this is an important work of fiction which reflects the horrors of these times and places, but also the real emotions, the real humanity, the real love and the real resilience of people that historical fiction can convey.

I received an advanced copy of this book from St. Martin’s Press through NetGalley and copy from Jordan Hanley at St. Martin’s.
Profile Image for Mary Beth .
380 reviews1,616 followers
May 4, 2020
The Year is 1942 and Cilka is only sixteen years old when she is taken to Auschwitz-Birkenau Concentration Camp. She was a beautiful girl. She was raped and sexually abused by two S.S. Officers. She does whatever she has to do, to stay alive and survive.
Then she is free from the concentration camps but then she is condemned. She is charged with sleeping with the enemy and is then sent to Siberian Prison Camp for 15 years. She faces challenges both new and horribly familiar, including the unwanted attention of the guards.

She then becomes a nurse and has a little bit of freedom. She begins to tend to the ill in the camp, struggling to care for them under brutal conditions.

I loved loved loved this book. This is a historical novel and there are some graphic scenes that are dark. This book was a lot darker than The Tattooist of Auschwitz. This book can be read as a standalone. It is an emotional read. The S.S. Officers are monsters, they kill and hurt human beings. This is a terrible story but it also is a story of hope and courage. Cilka is so brave.

I really did love this story. This story is an emotional read, but I also found it uplifting at times.
The Holocaust was horrific and couldn't believe all the awful things that happened in the concentration camp and the Siberian prison camp was just as bad.

Heather Morris really did an amazing job on the characters. my favorite character was Cilia but I also loved Josie too. All the characters were very well done and made this novel come alive.

I felt so sad for Cilka, and everything she went through. .There are some scenes that are graphic but this is the Holocaust, a horrifying time.

I could not put this book down. It was a page turner. I loved the writing style. I am really loving historical novels more and more because I think they are needed because we need to remember what happened so that history isn't forgotten. This is an unforgettable story that will stay with me for a long time.

I want to thank Jordan, St. Martin's Press and Heather Morris for the ARC of this book in exchange for a honest review.

Available Now
Profile Image for Deanna .
655 reviews12.4k followers
October 14, 2019
My reviews can also be seen at: https://deesradreadsandreviews.wordpr...

An excellent read!!

I have had the author's previous novel, The Tattooist of Auschwitz on my to be read list for quite some time. I would have liked to have read it before starting Cilka’s Journey, but as soon as I received this book, I started reading. This novel was fine as a stand-alone, although part of me wanted to know more about some of the characters mentioned by Cilka (especially Lale and Gita).

The author is clear that while the story is based on actual events, it is still a novel of fiction.

“Although it weaves together facts and reportage with the experiences of women survivors of the Holocaust, and the experiences of women sent to the Soviet Gulag system at the end of the Second World War, it is a novel and does not represent the entire facts of Cilka’s life. Furthermore, it contains a mix of characters: some inspired by real-life figures, in some instances representing more than one individual, others completely imagined.”

In 1942, Cecilia ‘Cilka’ Klein was taken to the Auschwitz-Birkenau Concentration Camp. She was only sixteen years old. Cilka was eighteen after liberation, but she was not free. Cilka had hoped that they would see that she did what she had to do in order to survive. She just wants to go home to Czechoslovakia. But they say Cilka prostituted herself to the enemy and because she can speak other languages including German, they say she is a spy. She’s charged as a collaborator for sleeping with the enemy and sent to a prison camp in Siberia.

“You can expect a long sentence of hard labour”

She's lost everything and endured so much. Now she is being punished for it.

Cilka ends up in another place where power is essential for survival. She wonders how she can possibly go on. There are times when the despair overwhelms her, but there is a fire inside her that helps her to keep going.

In Siberia, Cilka impresses one of the camp's female doctors with her skills and capacity for languages. The doctor offers her a job. A job like this has its advantages, but it may cause jealousy among the other women.

Cilka carries the shame of what went on, of what she did to survive in the other place. She worries that others will find out what she did there. Cilka tries to get through each day as best she can. There are only two choices, survival or death.

She endures.

This was an engrossing and heartbreaking read. I read this novel in just a few sittings. At times the suffering was very hard to read but then I thought about what people had gone through. I am always amazed at the resilience of those who endured so much. Although there was so much cruelty there was also compassion and bravery.

Most of the story is about Cilka’s time in the prison camp in Siberia but also includes flashbacks to her time at Auschwitz.

How does someone survive such brutal conditions? I can’t even imagine the cold, the hunger, the abuse, and terror. I don’t think you can possibly know how you would react unless you're in a similar situation.

A deeply compelling and thought-provoking read with complex and well-developed characters. An emotional story about survival, resilience, hope, and the human spirit.

Cilka’s Journey will stay with me for a very long time.

I'd like to thank St. Martin’s Press for providing me with an advanced copy of this novel. All opinions are my own.
Profile Image for Nilufer Ozmekik.
2,134 reviews39.3k followers
March 13, 2022
Wow! This book is emotional, provoking, poignant, heartbreaking, touchy, amazing sequel of Tattoist of Auschwitz. Actually Cilka’s stories affected more… Because after the war, her compelling fight to stay alive and endure all tortures, humiliation, disgust, abuse didn’t end yet. Now she is sentenced to hard labor in Siberian camps. And it was time to sharpen her real survival skills for doing what it takes to stay alive and fight against new kind of human monsters who were determined to absorb her last remaining parts of remained hope and joyful feelings slowly each day.

This book shakes you to the core, feel deeply sad, devastated, helpless for all those brave women stayed in the hell and achieved to live after all their losses, suffers because they were so mentally and psychically so strong and admirable, adorable people.

Cilka was only 16 years old when she was taken to Auschwitz Concentration Camp. She grew fast and her instincts told her there were two choices for her: to let them do whatever they wanted to her body or to die. She chose to survive and paid it her sacrifice being judged as prostitute who was sleeping with enemy. And her knowledge of more than three languages helped them convict her as a spy.

Now she was facing her inner fears and tried get through her sentencing days because there was always determination and real fighter hid inside her heart to push her keep going.
Some parts of this book are so dark, brutal, terrifying. All those torments, hunger, terror, humiliation, abuses the women suffered and learned to live with this inhuman conditions when the real war criminals out there resumed living their lives. Was it fair? Never and ever would be.

I really exhausted sobbing, wiping my tears, fighting with the lump on my throat. I haven’t read something so effective, shaking, wrecking for so long. And the most terrifying part is the events on this book are real.

So I dried my tears, stopped my hiccups and sobs, took a deep breath and started clapping all those women, praying for their souls! Their bravery, endurance, survival skills, determination not to bend and break reminded me of those beautiful words of Anna Frank:

“I don’t want to have lived in vain like most people. I want to be useful or bring enjoyment to all people, even those I’ve never met. I want to go on living even after my death”

Anna Frank achieved to be immortal, just like all these beautiful, memorable characters starting with Cilka will always stay in my mind and take a special place in my heart.
Of course five bravery, heroic, admiring, astonishing, full of tears, heart-wrenching, world-changing stars coming to this story.

I wholeheartedly liked Tattoist of Auschwitz last year but I LOVED “Cilka’s Journey” more and more!
Profile Image for MarilynW.
1,070 reviews2,675 followers
February 26, 2022
Cilka's Journey (The Tattooist of Auschwitz #2) by Heather Morris

I did not mean take so long to finally read this Advanced Read Copy but once I received it, I felt very uncomfortable tackling a book about the Holocaust. Finally I read a couple of books that touched on the Holocaust and felt ready to read this book. But first, I read The Tattooist of Auschwitz, as my introduction to this book. After The Tattooist of Auschwitz, I wanted to know what happened to Cilka, after the liberation of the concentration camp, in 1945.  I read this book as historical fiction, with the emphasis on fiction, because so little was really known about Cilka and there are so many articles that discuss conflicting information about Cilka, her actions and even her existence. 

Having said all of that, I enjoyed this book despite it's gruesome subject matter. Cilka, of this story and the first one, survived the concentration camp by not fighting back with her captors. She was raped regularly by officers high in the chain of command and because they had "claimed" her, she was in charge of Block 25, the barracks where the women who were going into the gas chambers slept one more night, before being loaded into the trucks to be driven to their deaths. When the camps were liberated, Cilka was sentenced to 15 years in a Siberian gulag, for sleeping with the enemy but her role as the head of Block 25 was the role that haunted her even more than the fact she didn't fight back while being raped. 

Once at the gulag, Cilka tries to remain unseen, unnoticed but she quickly is chosen by a powerful prisoner to be his property, so she is once again raped regularly but safe from the gang rapes that happened to other women. Cilka's knowledge of many languages and her ability to learn quickly also kept her from hard labor because she was chosen to work with the doctors and nurses in the prisoner medical facility. Always, Cilka remembered her life and role at Auschwitz and feared that her fellow prisoners would find out about her former life. But the memory of her former life also drove her to do all she could to help her fellow inmates. 

The real live Soviet gulags were as bad as the Nazi concentration camps, even if they didn't have the gas chambers, ovens, and medical experiments. The prisoners were slaves, to be starved and worked to death and replaced by more slaves, there were always more bodies to replace those that fell. I'd been unaware of the details of places like this and now I know about one more historical horror. Cilka's Journey is a moving story and I'm glad I read it. 

Pub October 1, 2019

Thank you to St. Martin's Press and NetGalley for this ARC.
Profile Image for Thomas.
712 reviews172 followers
September 29, 2019
4.5 stars rounded down. This is a book of historical fiction. Cilka Klein was a real life person who was taken by Germans in WWII to Auschwitz and then Birkenau concentration camps when she was only 16.
The author confirmed that Cilka was a real person, but many events in the book are her own interpretation of Cilka's experiences.
The German camp commandant notices her beauty and takes for his personal sex slave in 1942. She survives because of this. The Soviet Army liberates the camp in 1945. They decide that she was a collaborator because she slept with the enemy. They sentence her to 15 years hard labor. She is sent to another concentration camp, Vorkuta, in the far north of the USSR. She is taken under the wing of the camp doctor, who recognizes her extraordinary abilities. Cilka trains to be a nurse and survives 10 years in Vorkuta before being released.
This is an inspiring story of courage and the will to survive in the face of terrible, life threatening conditions. I became invested in Cilka's story and thoroughly enjoyed this book. I recommend it to fans of Lilac Girls.
Thank You St. Martin's Press and Heather Morris for sending me this eARC through NetGalley.
Profile Image for Marialyce (absltmom, yaya).
1,941 reviews722 followers
November 7, 2019
I do realize that what I wrote and feel is quite an outlier position to be in. However, it is my opinion only and for numerous positive reviews, you can certainly look to many who have read and loved this story. I wish I could have been within that group.

There are some topics that you know, when reading about them, you will become emotionally involved. You will feel the horrors, the troubles, the times in the depth of your heart and soul as you are transported in a world you hoped never had been, but knew it had.

In reading Cilka's Journey, I was hoping for that in depth feeling of loss and the revulsion I felt in so many other Holocaust books I have read. Unfortunately, that was not to be. I should have realized that in this author's first book, The Tattooist of Auschwitz, I had trouble with not only some of the content but also in the emotionless (at least it seemed to me) way in which it was written.

However, I decided to put those feelings aside and tackle a book that so many wonderful book friends described as amazing. I only wish it had been just that for me. I once again found the telling cold as if a news reporter was listing events that one might read. It lacked that connection to the characters I found also as being an issue in her first book. There was only telling and it was bereft of showing.

Once again, I learned of the controversy that surrounded the first book has followed this one too! Add to that the issue I had upon learning that Cilka's husband did not want to be named or be a part of this book and her stepson said this telling is both lurid and titillating, being hurtful and appalling to the memory of his stepmother.




I fully realize that this is more fiction than anything historical, but I also feel that there are a huge number of historical fiction books that do an amazing job of portraying both the person and the historical times of the Holocaust. One of these stories is The Liberian of Auschwitz truly a tale of courage, bravery, and homage to a woman's bravery which I recommend most highly. Others that were tragically wonderful were Auschwitz Lullaby, We Were the Lucky Ones, The Storyteller, Schindler's List, Sarah's Key, The Nightingale, and so many others.

I find myself siding with the Auschwitz Museum when it comes to this author's books. "The factual mistakes made by the author of "The Tattooist of Auschwitz" as well as all misinterpretations resulted in creating a distorted version of Auschwitz. This is dangerous and disrespectful to history. The story deserves better." Passages such as this " Exhausted by hope, the three young women lie on the grass and close their eyes, letting the warmth of the sun transport them away from where they are." Seriously, do we really think Auschwitz prisoners were permitted to lie on the grass gazing at the sun?

I do think Cilka deserves better and although I respect all those who found this a worthwhile read, I unfortunately found it to be appallingly bereft of feeling and that need as a reader to feel one with a historical character who had the life that Cecilia Kovachova bore.
Profile Image for Elyse Walters.
3,924 reviews35.4k followers
January 26, 2020
Update: $2.99 kindle special today: Fantastic price for a book worthy to be read!!

“There was such inhuman, unimaginable misery, such a terrible disaster, that it began to seem almost abstract, it would not fit with in the downs of consciousness”.

Cilka had two choices: death or do as she was told.

Cilka was convicted of working with the enemy, as a prostitute and additionally as a spy. She was sentenced to 15 years of hard labor.

There is no question of how well written, researched, captivating, brutal, devastating and emotionally GUT WRENCHING the history and storytelling is.
Heather Morris outdid herself!!!!! This is a phenomenal novel of the HORRORS of war...
The HORRORS of humanity!!!
This novel is darker and more intense than her previous book: “The tattooist of Auschwitz”.
There are moments of INSPIRATION....
Moments of ruthless courage - strength - bravery- with ordinary people doing incredible things to help others!
There is love - and there is Cilka...
I’ve almost hit my limit...
the wall....with reading Holocaust stories.
I admit to being drained...
I was also gifted with some happy news about the good people too....
Cilka Klein was the good one. She did what she needed to do....
She made a profound difference to many...
Risked her life...
Survived this war...
This novel brings memory - important memory to an extraordinary woman -
Cilka Klein: I’ll remember you!!!

Thank you - first and foremost author Heather Morris.
Thank you Netgalley and St. Martins Publishing- and their terrific staff who are some of the most hardworking generous people in the book world!
October 15, 2019
5+ stars!

An engrossing, shocking and unsettling extension of this series. I read and loved The Tattooist of Auschwitz last year and was eagerly anticipating getting my hands on a copy of Cilka’s Journey. Although a very difficult novel to read due to the atrocities detailed within these pages, I found this book to be even more intriguing and informative than the first one. The writing is honest, brutal at times, but so important to read so we can honour those that lived through these devastating wartimes. Their voices cannot be forgotten.

Cilka is only sixteen-years-old when she is sent to Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp in 1942. She is singled out by the commandant to be given separate living arrangements where she will be available for his pleasure. After living this way for three years, the camp is liberated, although Cilka is not freed. She is charged as a collaborator for sleeping with the enemy. She is sentenced to fifteen years at a Siberian prison camp where living conditions are not much different than they were at Auschwitz-Birkenau.

I had not known about these Siberian prison camps prior to reading this novel. I was devastated to learn that these dreadful prison camps continued existing after the liberation of Auschwitz. The charges that Cilka faced were so extremely unjust. Had Cilka denied the commandant what he requested, she would have been killed. What other option did she have? My mind was spinning with this situation throughout the entire novel. What options did these prisoners have other than to accept what was demanded of them?

I loved Cilka’s character. She was extremely strong and inspiring in the face of so much pain. She gave strength and hope to many.

On a side note, I believe a large part of what made me truly connect to and love this book so much was that I had been advised by a wonderful friend (who read this novel before I did) that not everything that happens to Cilka is based on fact. As with any historical fiction book, fact and fiction are weaved together to paint a broad picture of the time period/situation being examined. Although Cilka was a real person who endured much of what happens in this novel, not every single circumstance is her personal story. I think knowing that ahead of time really enhanced my connection to the story as it stopped me from looking too deep into the reality of each scenario. As the author mentions in the Note at the end of the novel, “There is a mix of characters inspired by real-life figures, in some instances representing more than one individual, and characters completely imagined.” I urge you to keep this in mind when reading this harrowing and unforgettable book. The author does a phenomenal job incorporating much detail into this gripping and emotional storyline.

I will leave you with one of the most powerful quotes from this book. “Everyone affected by war, captivity, or oppression reacts differently — and away from it, people might try to guess how they would act, or react, in the circumstances. But they do not really know.”

Thank you to my lovely local library for the loan of this exceptional novel!
Profile Image for Kylie D.
464 reviews505 followers
September 30, 2019
A wonderful book about one woman's amazing tale, Cilka's Journey is a book where you struggle to come to terms with man's inhumanity to man. I mean, how much can one woman go through in one lifetime? Based on the true story of Cecilia Klein, first incarcerated in Auschwitz-Birkenau extermination camp, when the camp is finally freed by the allies she finds herself arrested for collaboration with the Nazis, and sent to a Soviet gulag above the Arctic Circle.

Cilka was obviously an extraordinary young woman, only sixteen when first sent to Auschwitz, she did what she could to survive, and found she had to pay for it through the years that followed. We first met Cilka in the author's fantastic book The Tattooist Of Auschwitz, whereas Cilka's Journey is a fictional tale about her time spent in the gulags. Conditions in the camp come to the fore, Cilka having to cope with rape, coercion, and the bitter cold of Siberia. Yet through it all hope shines, hope that she will one day be free and be able to find love.

I found Cilka's Journey to be a compelling, yet harrowing read. A wonderful heroine, yet a hard subject, it leaves the reader feeling uneasy, the fact that this book is based on real life. However I have no hesitation in recommending it to all lovers of historical fiction.

My thanks to Allen & Unwin for a copy to read and review. The opinions are entirely my own.
Profile Image for Debra .
2,201 reviews34.9k followers
October 8, 2019
"There have to be more ways to stay alive than to be witness to so much death."

Based upon a true story, Cilka's Journey tells that tale of Cilka who was sixteen years old when she is taken to Auschwitz-Birkenau Concentration Camp, in 1942. There she gained the attention of the Commandant, and is kept separate from the other women, she is allowed to have her hair long, to have "nice" things.... but nothing is free, everything has a cost. Wanting to survive she does what she can, all the while trying to help others.

At the end of the war, she believes she is free, it is over, she can pick up the pieces of her life, but life is not kind, sometimes it is quite cruel, and she is found to be a collaborator for "sleeping" with the enemy, plus she had the gift of language and spoke several languages, certainly she is a spy (as well as a whore). Oh, how that made my blood boil. Her sentence is being sent to a Siberian prison/work camp. Yet again, she cannot escape the unwanted attention (rape) from men. Seriously, let's be real "sleeping with the enemy" and "unwanted attention" are rape, which the women were subjected to time and time again. Her only solace is finding a place in the hospital, where she falls under the wing of a female doctor and finds purpose helping others, giving them solace and saving lives.

"To forget the dead would be akin to killing them a second time."- Elie Wiesel

I found this book to be well written, well researched, thought provoking, moving, captivating and heartbreaking. I love books based on true stories and people. This book was no exception. There are some scenes which may make some people uncomfortable, but I feel they are also necessary for the telling of Cilka's story. There was a scene in the book where one character showed sacrifice and gave a "gift to another character. I couldn't help but think of Holocaust Survivor Gerda Weissman Klein who told the story of her friend, Isle, who found a raspberry on a leaf in a Nazi labor camp and instead of eating it, saved it and gave it to Gerda at the end of the day. Gerta said “Can you conceive of a world in which your entire possession becomes one raspberry, and to give this treasure to your friend?” Cilka does not give a raspberry, but she gives an even greater gift in this book.

I thought about MA (Grandmother) a lot during reading this book. She was fifteen when she entered Auschwitz and also received "unwanted attention" and had every single one of her teeth punched out by a Nazi. Strongest woman I ever had the privilege and pleasure of knowing and loving.

This is an emotional tale which gives a glimpse into one woman's life and experiences in both Auschwitz and a Siberian Labor Camp. The cold and snow also become characters in this desolate landscape where the only warmth comes from the close friendships the characters have with others.

This is a story of survival, courage, friendship, love, caring, hatred, rape, racism and cruelty. It is equally inspiring and heartbreaking. I suggest reading The Tattooist of Auschwitz prior to reading this book. Cilka is first introduced in that book as a minor character. Due to interest in her, Morris began to research her life.

Thank you to St. Martin's Press and NetGalley who provided me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. All the thoughts and opinions are my own.
Profile Image for Michelle.
1,342 reviews115 followers
November 15, 2019
I have really conflicting feelings on this book.

I have read the Tattooist of Auschwitz and found it to be a pretty unemotional read to be honest which has never happened to me before when reading a holocaust book but as far as the book went it was ok.

I wasnt overly surprised to then read that book had already drawn stinging condemnation from the Auschwitz Memorial, which said in a detailed report earlier this year that the book “contains numerous errors and information inconsistent with the facts, as well as exaggerations, misinterpretations and understatements”.

Then this book got released and I read the article on Cilka's stepson and his views on this book and felt pretty disgusted at what the author had done.

And now I've read the book and here's what I feel.

This is another unemotional book by this author on a subject that is far from unemotional. I dont think she should have ever have written it let alone released it, she puts in her notes that she felt it an honor to write this book, shame the actual family members dont agree with you Heather.

But all that aside, the things that went on in both Auschwitz and the Soviet camps did happen and it is just horrendous to even contemplate.

Having visited Auschwitz and Birkenau in September I could visualise the scenes in this book, but visiting and really understanding what these humans lived and died through is another thing entirely.

If i was rating this book on the morals of this author i would give it one star. If i was rating this book on what people endured during the holocaust and the years afterwards I would give it five stars. I am therefore giving this book three stars.

My views on this book and the tattooist of Auschwitz will forever remain complicated. What I am sure about though is that I am done with this author.
Profile Image for Tina.
2,396 reviews1 follower
August 16, 2022
This is a historical fiction, and this is the second book in the Tattooist of Auschwitz. I really enjoyed this book. This is a historical fiction book. This book was about Cilka live while she was in Auschwitz-Birkenau Concentration Camp and Siberian Prison Camp. Cilka was sixteen when this book started. I have to say that there was a few parts of this book that was hard to read, but I think most people would know there will be should hard to read some happening it a book that is about a person the is in a concentration camp. I won this book for a goodreads giveaway, but this review is 100% my own opinion.
Profile Image for Cheri.
1,713 reviews2,240 followers
October 25, 2021

”Memories of her old life have faded, become blurred. At some point it became too painful to remember that life with her family, in Bardejov, existed.”

When faced with the choice between blind obedience to those in charge or death, Cilka chooses life, but never really fully commits to either choice, as physically, emotionally and mentally drained as she is. Still, there is something inside her that fights to live even when she seems to have nothing left to give.

”The rules change day to day here, she thinks. And though this camp has a different purpose—to get them to work for Russia, rather than killing them for being Jewish—in these conditions, and with constant rape, always the threat of violence and the “hole,” Cilka can see that she has gone from one cruel, inhuman place to another.”

Still a teenager when she was taken to Auschwitz-Birkenau Concentration Camp in 1942, where she was first used as a tool for the pleasure of men for the three years she was there. And then released from the Nazis, she ends up in Siberia. In the Vorkutlag or Vorkuta Gulag labor camp located in Siberia, where she’s been charged with collusion – for doing what she had been forced to do by the men in Auschwitz-Birkenau. Men and women worked hard to avoid the punishment meted out to ones who dared pause in their labor, working to the point of collapsing, occasionally dropping dead from the work, or lack of food.

”What you are doing, Cilka, is the only form of resistance you have—staying alive.”

Cilka’s story is a somewhat fictionalized account of Cilka, a real woman who befriended Lale Sokolov, also a real person, in the author’s The Tattooist of Auschwitz. I am in awe of Cilka, her story, her persistence and inner strength that helped her survive what seems at every twist and turn to be unendurable – and yet – survive she must.

Published: 01 Oct 2019

Many thanks for the ARC provided by St. Martin’s Press
Profile Image for Kylie D.
464 reviews505 followers
October 13, 2019
A wonderful book about one woman's amazing tale, Cilka's Journey is a book where you struggle to come to terms with man's inhumanity to man. I mean, how much can one woman go through in one lifetime? Based on the true story of Cecilia Klein, first incarcerated in Auschwitz-Birkenau extermination camp, when the camp is finally freed by the allies she finds herself arrested for collaboration with the Nazis, and sent to a Soviet gulag above the Arctic Circle.

Cilka was obviously an extraordinary young woman, only sixteen when first sent to Auschwitz, she did what she could to survive, and found she had to pay for it through the years that followed. We first met Cilka in the author's fantastic book The Tattooist Of Auschwitz, whereas Cilka's Journey is a fictional tale about her time spent in the gulags. Conditions in the camp come to the fore, Cilka having to cope with rape, coercion, and the bitter cold of Siberia. Yet through it all hope shines, hope that she will one day be free and be able to find love.

I found Cilka's Journey to be a compelling, yet harrowing read. A wonderful heroine, yet a hard subject, it leaves the reader feeling uneasy, the fact that this book is based on real life. However I have no hesitation in recommending it to all lovers of historical fiction.

My thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Susanne.
1,157 reviews36.5k followers
December 8, 2019
5 Incredible, Heart-Wrenching, Tear-filled Stars.

When I started “Cilka’s Journey” I didn't think it possible for me to like it as much as its predecessor, “The Tattooist of Auschwitz.” In truth, like doesn’t begin to describe my feelings for this book. I loved the story of Lale and Gita and yet, I adored “Cilka’s Journey” - such that I loved it with every cell in my body and every emotion I can possibly muster.
If I had to give you one reason why I loved this novel more than Lale and Gita’s, I’d have to say that I loved Cilka’s story perhaps because it wasn’t a love story, unlike that of Lale and Gita.

“Cilka’s Journey” broke me. This is Cilka’s story of survival during the absolute worst of times. Any other person would not have survived and yet she did. First, she survived Auschwitz-Birkenau, only to be liberated and then sentenced by the Soviets to 15 years in Vorkuta gulag in Siberia. It is unthinkable and yet, for Cilka, it was her penance, for doing what she had to do, sleep with the enemy to make it through.

Cilka always put everyone else first, including the girls in her hut and her closest friend Josie, even during times of adversity. I have no words for how selfless Cilka was and for what she went through. Her relationship with Josie was such a blessing and yet it tore at my heart. Tears fell many a time while reading this novel, but none more during her time with Josie. I love how the story is told in the present day and through flashbacks while Cilka was at Auschwitz-Birkenau, it brought such realism to the story and really helped me feel Cilka’s strength.

What more can I say except that I love Cilka Klein. Her strength of character, her determination, her kindness and her selflessness. Your story will stay with me for a long time.

Heather Morris - your ability to weave this story from research, from interviews and from facts and use some artistic license, it is a work of art. The author’s note at the end of this novel captivated me. Thank you for bringing “Cilka’s Journey” to life. This is a haunting portrayal of a young girl’s ability to not only survive but thrive during what was the most horrific of times and to do what must be done.

A huge thank you goes out to St. Martin’s Press for sending me a galley of this novel to cherish always.

Published on Goodreads and Amazon on 12.8.19.
November 1, 2019
Q: History never gives up its secrets easily. (c)
Q: What could possibly happen to them, on such a soft spring day? (c)
Whoever thought of labour/death camps of all kinds - I hope they enjoy their stay in hell.

One of the better modern 2nd World War books of the modernity. It's propaganda fiction, of course. I wouldn't go as far as to compare Nazis and Soviets. Let me explain why:

It's one thing to start an international world war and start killing people off as Jewish, Romani, Slavic nationals. Yes, these were Nazis.

It's another thing to be so overwhelmed in the aftermath of the WW2 (after losing a good quarter of its population and most of industrial sector) as to pack people from the Nazi camps into the Siberia. Basically, anyone who was reported by well-doers as Nazi collaborators got into the Siberia. Even being on the occupied territories was a stigma that could go a long way to pave one's way into suspicion and prison. These were Soviet representatives. They saw enemies everywhere and that was the downfall of everything.

And who wouldn't see enemies everywhere after bearing the brunt of such a war? The UK was fucking bombed, from distance, and they still are screaming how they suffered from hunger and bombings and everything. Does anyone really think that all those millions of people (Russian, Ukrainian, Belorussian and otherwise) who were on the occupied by Nazis territories of Russia fared better? That peoples displaced, or the ones who ran leaving everything or the ones who lived and died in Voronezh, Volgograd, St-Petersberg, under Moscow - where front lines went across the cities, where children fought against the Nazis along with adults, where houses were made into bastions and streets fought tooth and nail over, where whole villages were burned with their inhabitants, alive (think Khatyn) - that all those people did any better than the UK population?

Of course, people whose relatives were shot, beaten, raped, hung, disappeared would see enemies everywhere, even in little starved girls who happened to have a German (not necessarily Jewish) family name - Klein - and knew how to speak German and were reported to have been 'consorting' (what an ugly word!) with the hated Nazi death camp supervisors.

What they thought they were doing?
Of-fucking course, they would have imagined they were 'cleaning' the population from Nazi-brainwashed individuals.
What they actually fucking did?
Idiots! They destroyed many lives in the process. Lives already broken by Nazis. Nice job. Not.
What do we see resulting from the WW2?
Evil breeds evil.
Bad peace is better than any great war.
People will always suffer, no matter what.

I'd really like to see these angles addressed somehow as they are always glossed over, everywhere, in the modern lit. I don't like things glossed over. I prefer historical accuracy and context.

We start at 5 stars:
+1 star for getting many cultural things right (such as 'maz ot ozhogov', 'alav ha-shalom', etc). Kudos to the author. Finally someone has done their homework. Of course, later in the book I'd find 'Nina Romanova' where 'Romanova' is supposed to be a patronimic, which it isn't. And 'Orlovna' as a patronimic. But then again, many things were reasonable.
+1 star for Cilka's 'angelic, naive and oversimplified' worldview. She was a bit one-dimentional, all right. Then again, just try staying a multidimentional, well-rounded person after being raped for 2 years in a Nazi death camp and going afterwards to a Siberian labour camp. It's a wonder she isn't shown barking mad. Mostly, I liked the girl managing to survive against all odds and helping other people.
-1 star - no happy end. I'd really love the gal to have gotten out, somehow, anyhow, out of all the mishap. I know of people who managed to just run away from camps, from trains brigning them on there. These were lucky escapees. Very lucky. Under extremely lucky stars.
-1 star - glossed over Nazis, embellished Soviets. I seriously dislike that on principle. I know that's the new fashion. And I can't help wondering for what purpose the Overton's window technique is being used to make the Nazis into the new superheroes and the Red Army into the antiheroes. A thinking person can't help asking 'For what end?' Who benefits from retrospective review of the WW2 now, today, in 2019, more than half a century after the war against Nazis was won by the Soviet union?

So, the overall rating is 5 stars. Not particularly glowing but fairly reasonable ones.

There seems to be additional controvercy about this one:
That's what happens when you are liberal with truth. No, I get everything about the writer's freedom to portray stuff whichever way's the most titillating, etc. But imagine surviving the horrors only to be, once again, publicly scrutinised in a variety of ways. Not good.

Yes, Cilka is strangely lucky. But also cursed. If they knew of where she had been, for all those years, while they still had an abundance of food and drink and warmth. While they still had families and homes. (c) Not necessarily. See above. Not necessarily at all.
They stop in front of the first woman. With the tip of his whip Taube lifts her breast. When he releases the whip, it sags down onto her chest. To the guard walking in front of him he indicates for the woman to be pushed back a step, out of line. Cilka watches as the next two woman, after their breasts also sag, join the first on a back row. The fourth woman stays in line, her breasts having bounced back into place.He is choosing whether they will live or die depending on whether or not their breasts are firm. (c)
Her role as leader of Block 25 was a punishment, but one she also still feels she needs to repent for. For surviving. For trading food for cigarettes for warm clothes. While the women came in and out and went off to die. And in and out and in and out, ceaselessly. (c)
She is dumbstruck. Again, she wonders why she always stands out. (c)
Once she had thought she deserved more, or better, but she knows there is always a very great cost. (c) Poor girl. It's terrible to be 'taught' such ugly things at an early age.
For many it is obvious: visible wounds exist, blood seeps through scraps of material masquerading as a bandage or tourniquet. (c)
They retreat into their own shame, grateful for the fresh bodies that will provide some relief from their assault. (c)
Cilka’s stomach suddenly feels very small. It wouldn’t be the first time she’s eaten a dead person’s food. (c)
It is good, she thinks, that Josie does not just accept her situation. It is a kind of strength. (c)
But the job is distracting her from her troubles too. Always a new problem to solve, something new to learn. If she did continue working here it would almost feel like a life, a way of keeping herself shut off from the memories of the past and the horror of her present situation. (c)
She is just surviving, Cilka has often thought. There is no one way to do it. (c)
They have all learned the art of stealing anything not nailed down; smuggling mugs from the mess; a small table discarded from an officers’ hut with a broken leg propped up on random bits of timber; a battered kettle of permanently boiling water on the stove. (c)
Spring is sweet but too short. (c)
Cilka supposes this will only happen on Sundays, when the half-day off allows them to be slightly less exhausted. (c) I don't think all camps gave any pieces of days off. It would have been a total luxury in such circumstances.
“So it is true. You’re just a common whore who gets what she wants by sleeping with the scum of mankind. Well, well, well.”
“You can’t hurt me, Hannah. Don’t even try,” ...
“How often do men come into our hut and rape you, Hannah?”
“I didn’t hear you... One man, several men … how many different men have raped you since we’ve been here?”
“It’s just what happens here.”
“Yes, it’s just what happens here. It’s what happened there to me. I was kept hidden away so the officers would not be seen to be polluting themselves. Do you know what that is like? For you and your family and friends, your whole race, to be treated like animals for slaughter?” (c)
Cilka cannot stop the images of women leaping onto electric fences in that other place, preferring a quick death to the hell on earth that was the camp, or the gas chamber they knew awaited them all. (c)
She sobs silently at the hopelessness she suddenly feels for her future and the people who will never be in it. (c)
It is a different world here, Cilka thinks. Still very much a prison, as such desperate actions indicated, but in that other place, you would not want to draw any attention to yourself. In a selection, you would not want to attract the eye of the doctors. You would not want anything to do with them at all. (с)
What he provides for her is safety from gang rape. She knows about being the property of powerful men and the protection it can provide, though she has also never had any choice in the matter. No, she cannot think of love. (c)
For the first time in many years she has allowed herself to be dragged down by the enormity of what she has seen, heard, and done—or not done—herself. What she no longer has and what she can never long for. It is like an avalanche—there seems to be no way now of holding it at bay. She doesn’t understand how she kept it all back before, but suspects this may be happening because she has acknowledged aloud to Yelena that she survived that other place. (c)
But talking about it is something she hasn’t tried. She feels a glimmer of something, that survival mechanism; a sense of hope. Maybe she should. She nods, just a little. “Not here. I don’t want anyone we work with to see me talking to you.” (c)
“Has anybody ever told you, you ask too many bloody questions?”
“Plenty of people, probably everyone who’s ever met me.” (c)
“But do you love me?”
“I don’t know what love is. If I was to allow myself to fall in love with someone, I would have to believe there was a future. And there isn’t.” (c)
And though she tries to deny the feeling to herself, Cilka looks out for Alexandr—a figure smoking, his eyes closed in momentary pleasure, near the administration building. In snow, through rain, in brief sun—his face turned up to the light. When she sees him, her heart leaps, but still she hurries on, thinking that to let in such longing can do no good. (c)
I am comforted by the knowledge Cilka spent nearly five decades with the man she loved and, according to her friends and neighbors, had a good life. (c)
And why did she have to be punished so harshly for choosing to live? (c)
Profile Image for Holly  B (busy month catching up).
799 reviews1,808 followers
September 15, 2019
The sequel to  The Tattooist of Auschwitz.

This is the story of Cilka, which is based on the real life of Cecília Kováčová.  She was a 16 year old character from book #1 The Tattooist of Auschwitz . She was a forced sex slave of a Nazi SS commandant.

I read this one as a fictional story as I'm not sure which parts are factual. Either way, her story is gripping, compelling and utterly heartbreaking. I loved Cilka's strength and courage. Every day was a struggle with new obstacles and little hope, but her instinct for survival was strong.

We follow Cilka as she is charged as a collaborator by the Russian government. She is sent to the gulags in Siberia. It was hard to read about how dire and horrific the prisoners were treated. I was invested in her story and pulling for her to make it through.

A compelling historical fiction novel with a character who felt very "real" to me and one I'll remember.

Thanks to NG and the publisher for my review copy. OUT October 1, 2019

Profile Image for Paige.
152 reviews285 followers
August 9, 2019
***The Tattooist of Auschwitz #2!!!***
Having survived being the enslaved mistress of a powerful Nazi leader at Auschwitz, the story begins with Cilka charged as a collaborator, loaded on a train with other women, and taken to the now-notorious Vorkuta Gulag in 1945. After arriving at the work camp, her and the other women in her “hut” battle for trust, hope, and forgiveness. She finds herself, yet again, in a position where survival trumps ethics. Cilka grasps for a greater purpose after leaving behind her dark past and quickly finds herself in a position to work within the confines of the Gulag hospital. She struggles to justify some of the hospital policies but also questions her own intentions. Having discerned hope as only a barren illusion, Cilka takes the reader on a haunting and remarkable journey.

"Again, as she has experienced over and over in her young life, she finds herself with two choices, one, the narrow path opening up in front of her, the other, death."

Cilka’s account specifically centers around the treatment of women in a Soviet Gulag. The brutality, rape, and undernourishment are intense but are an essential part of the gulag experience for the women who were imprisoned there. Vorkuta Gulag resonated in maltreatment and violence, and the details are richly accounted for in this novel.

Although this is the second novel for The Tattooist of Auschwitz, it easily works as a standalone. This account is only about Cilka and what happens to Cilka after being labelled as a "Nazi collaborator" having left Auschwitz. The author provides the background about what happened to Cilka very early on. Throughout the novel, flashbacks spanning from 1939-1945 give additional information about Cilka that was not included in the first novel, and each flashback is beautifully coated in irony. The location and date are noted above the flashbacks and each flashback is indicated by a page break and written in italics.

A must read because not enough is written about the Gulags! I could not put this one down. The notes from Heather Morris at the end are a must. But do not read them before because they contain spoilers.
HIGHLY recommend to fans of The Tattooist of Auschwitz and historical fiction. This one is much darker than The Tattooist, but equally critical and a story that needs to be heard.
Many thanks to St. Martin's Press, Heather Morris, and NetGalley for this advanced copy in exchange for my honest review.

For more about the Gulags:
Disturbing Gulag Photos
Gulag History
Profile Image for Sheyla ✎.
1,807 reviews458 followers
February 3, 2021
I still can't fathom how some humans can endure so much pain, mentally and physically, and survive it and find happiness.

I don't think I could've survived Auschwitz-Birkenau. I couldn't have survived the Vorkuta gulag in Siberia and most definitely, I wouldn't have survived both places.

How can a sixteen-year-old survive all of those thirteen years of misery? I have no clue. Like Lale Sokolov said: "She was the bravest person I knew".

“Everyone affected by war, captivity, or oppression reacts differently — and away from it, people might try to guess how they would act, or react, in the circumstances. But they do not really know.”

Even though this is a work of fiction, Cilka Klein was a real person. She was a Jewish girl born in Bardejov. She was a prisoner in both Auschwitz and Siberia. She endured rape, abuse, hunger, and so much death. Everyone she loved, was taken from her. Yet, she found new friendships and a doctor in Siberia who was sympathetic to her and decided to help her and train her.

The story is devastating in the horrors humans inflict on other humans. Despite it all, it does end up with a sense of hope that all is not lost.

Cliffhanger: No

4/5 Fangs

MrsLeif's Two Fangs About It | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram
Profile Image for Dem.
1,184 reviews1,082 followers
November 12, 2019
Another Historical Fiction Novel that just sits on my likable 3 star shelf but not standing out from any of the other Historical Fiction books I have read this year.

A nice easy read and a book that many historical fiction readers will enjoy but wasn't anything special for me.
Cilka is just sixteen years old when she is taken to Auschwitz-Birkenau Concentration Camp in 1942,
When the war comes to an end and the camp is liberated, Cilka is charged as a collaborator for sleeping with the enemy and sent to a Siberian prison camp.
In Siberia, Cilka once again faces new and old challenges in order to stay alive.

I did enjoy the book as is reflected in my rating it 3 stars but I didn’t find anything unique or exceptional about the story. I thought Cilka’s character was a little too good to be true and while I know it’s based on a true story I just found it a little overdone and the sense of time and place wasn’t well presented in this story.

When I compare this novel to other books I have read such as between Between Shades of Gray it just didn’t move me or will it be a memorable novel a year from now and that is just my opinion and we all react differently to books.

Not one for my favorites shelf but a book that was an easy historical fiction read.

I listened to this one on audible and the narration was average.
Profile Image for Katie B.
1,259 reviews2,943 followers
October 2, 2019
4.5 stars

I'm one of the few people who hasn't read the author's previous historical fiction book, The Tattooist of Auschwitz. I will eventually go back and read that one because I thought the author did an incredible job with Cilka's Journey. While this book features a character from the other novel, this one can easily be read as a standalone.

Cilka was just sixteen years old when she was taken to Auschwitz-Birkenau Concentration Camp. She does what she can to survive and in 1945 the camp is liberated. However, she is not free as she has been accused of sleeping with the enemy and is sent to a Siberian prison camp. With conditions not much better than those at the concentration camp, Cilka once again is going to have to find the strength to fight for her life.

There are different types of historical fiction books and this one is more heavy on the fiction side. Unfortunately so many details about the real life Cilka remain unknown. and I'm glad the author is upfront about how she pieced together facts along with her imagination to come up with the story. In my opinion, Heather Morris did a good job showing the harsh and inhumane conditions of these post-war prison camps. I believe she captured the essence of what it might have been like for Cilka and other prisoners and to me that's what makes this such a worthwhile read regardless of whether it was 100% factual or not. While the war might have ended in 1945, so many people, like Cilka, continued to suffer and that is something that should never be forgotten.

The only slight criticism I have about the book is I felt like it was a rushed ending. I'm not trying to give away spoilers, so I will just say I'm specifically talking about the Epilogue. I think there was some room to expand there as I was left wanting just a bit more.

Overall, this was an incredible book and I'm thankful the author felt it was a story worth telling. Simply put, go out and read this book!

Thank you to Netgalley and St. Martin's Press for providing me with an advance digital copy in exchange for an honest review!
Profile Image for Linda.
1,195 reviews1,243 followers
September 30, 2019
"You are free."

Words that only can be dreamed about, longed for, and out of reach.

Heather Morris presents quite the story here that leaves an ache in the heart of the reader because it is based on a real individual and real situations that took place at the Auschwitz Concentration Camp in 1942. To turn away is to sit on the edge of denial. To turn away never honors the memory of those who never returned.

Cilka Klein is a mere sixteen years old. She and her family have been rounded up and taken to Auschwitz and their fate will be decided by their Nazi captors. Separated without the touch of family, Cilka fights for survival in whatever shape or form it may arrive in. Under brutal circumstances, she tries to keep a low profile. But it's not long before she is noticed by a Nazi officer who takes her as his personal property. Cilka is subjected to cruelty that every woman fears.

As the years pass, Cilka will become the object of an insidious fate. When the Russians arrive in Auschwitz, Cilka is accused of cohorting with the enemy Germans for her relationship with the Nazi officer. She is sentenced to 15 years of labor in the frigid, barbed-wired Siberian Gulag. Cilka is now relegated to a deeper Hell.

Morris creates an eye-opening panoramic view of life in Siberia. Because she is good with languages, Cilka will have the benefit of working in the miners' hospital facility. It's here that Morris opens the spectrum of her story even wider. Cilka learns that bodies can be broken, but the human spirit still lives for another breath.

The Author's Notes at the end give us some backstory on the real Cilka Klein. Heather Morris has done a great job with her research and interviews. The unfolding of this story will stay with you.....as it should. Authors like Heather Morris serve the world with a reminder lest we forget the horrible atroscities visited upon humanity......still close to the fingertips of the world of today.

I received a copy of Cilka's Journey through NetGalley for an honest review. My thanks to St. Martin's Press and to Heather Morris for the opportunity.

October 2, 2019
Cilka's Journey is a fictionalized story that is inspired by what Heather Morris discovered about real-life Cilka who is a character in The Tattooist of Auschwitz.

Cilka survived Auschwitz and then was sent to a labour camp for collaborating and sleeping with the enemy. Heather Morris captures what it could have been like for Cilka and the other prisoners in the camp.

Cilka's bravery and strength shine through here as we see her care for prisoners and her friends. It is an inspiring, hopeful story of an ordinary young woman who becomes an extraordinary woman under unimaginable circumstances. Cilka's actions throughout the story show us the goodness in people at times of horror and the strength needed to survive. I highly recommend it.

I received a copy from the publisher on NetGalley
Profile Image for Liz.
1,965 reviews2,415 followers
September 19, 2019
The premise of this book is designed to shock. Cilka is sent to Birkenau in 1942. At sixteen years old, she is forced to become a sex slave of the Commandant. She also is put in charge of the barracks housing the women going to the gas chambers. When the Russians liberated the camp, she is charged as a collaborator for working with and sleeping with the enemy and sentenced to a labor camp in Siberia for fifteen years.

The story alternates between Cilka’s time in Siberia and her time back in Birkenau. We see the horrors of what she endures in both places. She suffers horrible survivor’s guilt yet continues to persevere. Because of her intelligence, she is trained to be a nurse. Through it all, she seeks a way to give her life meaning and find a way to compensate for what she did in Birkenau. At times, I questioned whether the author made Cilka just a little too good to be true.

The author keeps the pace up and she never lingers too long on any one scene. This helps the reader as some of the issues Cilka faces are graphic and disturbing.

The book is wonderful for what it makes us think about. How would we have acted? Not just in Birkenau but also in the gulag.

Cilka existed in real life, but this is very much a piece of fiction. There wasn’t much to go on but the author did do a good amount of research into life in the gulags. The book includes an essay at the end concerning the gulags and it’s well worth reading.

The book is considered the second in a series, but can easily be read as a standalone. It would make a book club selection.

My thanks to netgalley and St. Martin’s Press for an advance copy of this book.
Profile Image for Carole.
488 reviews107 followers
November 25, 2019
Cilka’s Journey by Heather Morris is a work of fiction based on the actual life of a woman who lived during and after the Holocaust. I hesitated to request this title due to its serious subject matter but I have not regretted a single word. Sixteen-year-old Cilka Klein and her family were transported in cattle cars to Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camps and she remained there for three years, fighting to stay alive by any means available. When the camps were liberated, Cilka, instead of leaving for her country, was sentenced to fifteen years in a Siberian gulag, charged with sleeping with the enemy. While there, Cilka was befriended by a doctor who helped her to become a nurse and, as the years passed, she helped many. The novel alternates between her time in the camps and her time in Siberia. This is a story of courage and perseverance under the worst of circumstances. Thank you to St Martin’s Press and NetGalley for the e-ARC in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Debbie W..
709 reviews457 followers
January 9, 2021
I'm pleased that I took a chance reading/listening to Cilka's Journey. This was a most enjoyable and unique story in the historical fiction genre!

Here's why I gave it 5 stars:
(1) this fictionalized story based on Cilka Klein, a real-life woman who survived Auschwitz, only to be imprisoned in the Siberian gulag at Vorkuta by her Russian "liberators" for "collaborating with the enemy" because she not only could speak six different languages, but that she also prostituted herself (forcibly) with Nazi SS officers, is a story like no other;
(2) if you enjoyed The Tattooist of Auschwitz, then you would appreciate the references to Lale Sokolov and Gita;
(3) I really got a feel for Cilka's life in the gulag - the harsh living conditions, the atrocities, the pecking order for survival. I also felt gratitude for her friendships and her "lucky breaks"; and,
(4) Section 11 of the audiobook was extremely informative! The Author's Note and Additional Information by Morris helped me learn more about the real Cilka. The Afterword written by Owen Matthews gave a detailed account of the Vorkuta gulag. The Interview with Heather Morris enlightened me in her journey to not only write The Tattooist of Auschwitz, but why she chose to write Cilka's Journey.

The only thing that troubled me (slightly) with this audiobook (and it wouldn't have been an issue with a physical copy) was narrator's Louise Brealey's British accent. Although she's a fine reader, I would have preferred hearing a narrator use an East European/Russian accent.

I believe that fans of historical fiction, especially of events in history rarely read about, would most likely enjoy this story!

Profile Image for Debbie.
433 reviews2,744 followers
October 28, 2019
5 gold stars for an extra-strong woman, and 5 sure stars for this extra-strong book!

Wow, this is some powerful historical fiction! It’s based on the real life of an unsung hero, Cilka, who went through the Holocaust and ended up in a Siberian labor camp. The book started out way too depressing—every single sentence was doom and gloom to the nth degree. The language seemed sort of dead and monotonous, and as the sentences and dread piled up, I could barely stand it. I thought, “Why am I reading this? This makes me feel awful! It’s too much!” I understand that the author wants to educate us about the gruesomeness of the times, but there’s a limit to what I can take. It’s a given that I can’t truly know how it felt to be Jewish in Europe during the Holocaust, but my overactive empathy gene makes me try to picture the horror, and it haunts me if I dwell on it.

I considered ditching the book. It’s not that I wanted lightweight; I just wanted it to let up a bit. But then I got totally absorbed in Cilka’s life, and I fell in love with her. Suddenly I couldn’t put the book down. In fact, it almost made me grab my pogo stick. I love it when I go from almost abandoning a book to giving it 5 stars!

This is a story about survival and camaraderie that happened under incredibly harsh conditions. Women in the labor camp had it way worse than the men, and god help them if they got pregnant. The sexual abuse alone was horrific. There were people I vehemently hated and people I completely loved. There are flashbacks to Cilka’s time at Auschwitz, and they are powerful, too.

This isn’t a book where I zealously highlighted sentences. Few words of wisdom, just a closeup look at an amazing person who endured unimaginable suffering. I only underlined sentences that I thought were eloquent, and there weren’t a lot. If I dole out 5 stars, it usually means I highlighted like crazy. Here, I gave the book 5 stars because Morris is such a good storyteller: The plot is well paced and almost flawless, and Cilka is well drawn. Morris taught me things about Siberian labor camps, mostly about the dynamics of prisoners and what they were forced to endure. Most important, Morris made me feel something for Cilka and her fellow sufferees. Highlights not required.

Cilka is full of positive adjectives: she’s smart, resourceful, kind, strong, resilient, and selfless—a version of Mother Theresa or Florence Nightingale. I found it impossible not to admire Cilka and to feel her pain. Of course, as in a lot of fiction, she has a secret, which always ups the anguish and the drama.

Two small nits. “Fuck” is used occasionally (as a noun), by men wanting to have sex, and I bought that. However, there are numerous times when “fuck” is used as an adjective or is otherwise colloquial, and the sentences seemed all wrong. The usage is way too modern. This one, spoken by a female inmate, especially bugged me: “I want you to go fuck yourself.” Each time I ran across a phrase like that, I was startled, because it didn’t fit the tone and style of the book. And each time, I was pulled out of the scene and the time period, which pretty much wrecked it for me for a short while. (Meanwhile, I can’t believe I’ve devoted a whole paragraph to the word “fuck”!)

The other nit: I don’t think Morris made the camp cold enough. She didn’t talk about the temperature much, and there were few scenes where we see people enduring frigid conditions. Most of us think of Siberia as being unbearably cold. Yet here I often forgot about the climate. I thought the harsh weather should have been ever-present.

The book will stay with me a long time; it’s storytelling at its best. If you love historical fiction, you’ll love this. I’m for sure going to check out Morris’s earlier book, The Tattooist of Auschwitz, where Cilka is introduced.

I would be so happy to see a movie based on this book. Still trying to pick the actress for the role, in case the producer calls me, lol.

Thanks to NetGalley for the advance copy.
September 4, 2019
At only 16 years old, Cilka Klein was taken to Auschwitz-Birkenau Concentration Camp, where she clung to life for three years. Cilka’s beauty and distinctive hair catch the eye of a senior officer, Commander Schwarzhuber. As a child, she becomes a pawn to powerful men and realizes her only chance of survival is to do as she’s told.

Upon Cilka’s release from the Nazis, she is charged with colluding with the enemy by her Russian liberators. After three years of watching her people, and even family, being murdered, Cilka is sent to another place of imprisonment - the Vorkuta Gulag in Siberia. In this new confinement, she quickly learns that not much is different, with unwanted attention from both men and guards. However, she finds friendship and purpose in the hospital ward - and even a possible spark of romance.

Cilka’s Journey - from the best-selling author of The Tattooist of Auschwitz Heather Morris - continues Cilka Klein’s story of survival, the strength of character, and bravery through some of the worst times of human history. It reveals the atrocities committed against women in particular and explores themes of shame and sexual violence which are still relevant today. This work of historical fiction will open your eyes to the realities women in these camps faced and the resiliency of the will to live.
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January 21, 2021
Here is a re-write of my review from earlier in the week. Not sure what happened but that review has been deleted. I am writing as close as I can to the original from memory.

Cilka's Journey is Heather Morris' sequel to the Tattooist of Auschwitz. This book follows the same format as the first in that it is an account of one's life during WWII and the following years, it was Lale in the first book, and here it is Cilka. We met Cilka in The Tattooist of Auschwitz as the girl who sits beside Gita when she takes work in the administration building of Auschwitz-Birkenau. Cilka is then removed from the role but Lale and Gita become close friends with her. In the closing pages of the Tattooist, Gita is amongst the throng of prisoners leaving Birkenau as the Russians descend on the fleeing Germans in 1945. Gita tries in vain to find her friend and as she is loaded onto the train she hears the gunshots ring out, signifying that the Germans are slaughtering the prisoners left in the yard. We are left as readers to ponder if that was Cilka's demise - Obviously not!!

Cilka is left behind to face the Russian "filtering" of the prisoners and it is decided that, due to her activities in Auschwitz-Birkenau, she has sided with and aided the Nazis and is therefore sentenced to fifteen years at the Russian Gulag, Vorkuta. This camp is situated inside the Arctic Circle.

Cilka's Journey and life in Vorkuta and her regrets over her past are the basis of this book. Here she is subjected to conditions that are sometimes worse than the Polish camp but food rations, morals, security, and conditions are much the same. Again she must do what is needed to survive but it is the close friendships she makes here that give her the slightest of hope.

There really is no more I need to add to get you reading this but now I will go off on one of my tangents. Towards the end of WWII, the allies were fighting in the Pacific and on mainland Europe, it was the Russians who pushed back the advancing German armies, all of the way back to Berlin. At times the Russians can be perceived as heroes but this cannot always be considered the case.

The Nazis have been condemned for their actions during WWII with particular emphasis on the death camps and the Holocaust - and rightfully so. Many prisoners were released from these camps when the Russians flowed through Poland but many were also sent to the Gulags, as was the case with Cilka. These Gulags were far bigger than the German camps and conditions were the same, if not worse. The Germans used firing squads and gasses to kill millions yet millions also died in the Russian Gulag system, predominantly through illness, starvation, or because of the poor conditions. These Gulags remained until the death of Stalin in 1953. Do not be fooled! Vorkuta and Auschwitz-Birkenau are eerily similar.
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