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About the BookA woman filled with courage and tenacity teaches us about what it means to be a mother in the most extreme circumstances imaginable. Matka offers a timely reminder of the tragic consequences of separating parents from children, and the resilient capacity of those who are "displaced" to re-imagine their futures. Based on a true story.
Zosia, a faithless Catholic and grieving widow, has sacrificed herself to save her dying son from the Gestapo. She takes his place as a prisoner and is sent to work as a slave on a farm in Germany, where the only things keeping her alive are the hope of her children's survival and the occasional stolen chicken.
Once World War II ends and peace settles over Europe, Zosia's driving goal is to return to Poland, to the children she left behind. Instead, she's collected into a refugee camp in Wildflecken, Germany, to wait for some semblance of stability in Poland. While there, she digs for clues about her family. With her homeland in ruins and thousands of other refugees also searching, the truth is impossible to uncover. Zosia finds herself trapped in a never-ending purgatory.
Despite her initial resistance, she falls in love with Czeslaw, who uses his network of outlaws within the black market to help with her search. When Zosia becomes pregnant, Czeslaw offers marriage and the promise of a new life but is unable to return to Poland and the tragedy he left behind.
The refugee camps throughout Europe are closing and time is running out. Zosia is faced with an impossible decision: return to the remnants of Poland alone to find her older children, or follow Czeslaw into the unknown, to a better future for her fragile new family.
"At its heart is a woman filled with courage and tenacity . . . Sarah Hanley's gripping and dazzling debut insists that we see our own reality in a more honest and truthful light." - Kaethe Schwehn, author of The Rending and the Nest