Maps and Shadows - Krysia Jopek The history covered in this book is very interesting. The book deals with the consequences of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact between Russia and Germany, the name being the foreign ministers of the respective countries. The book is essentially about how historical events play out in one Polish family. This book is sold as historical fiction, but in my view it reads more as a history book. The prose style is very factual, filled with intersting historical details. I appreciate what I learned, but I did not ever feel closer to the characters. I have read other biographies where I end up loving/hating the characters, but not here! This family was deported from Poland to Russian labor camps east of Archangel, located on the White Sea, a bit below Barents Sea. This is in European Siberia. The family of five travel in cattle cars up to the camps. The conditions of this travel and of their stay in Siberia are horrendous. But the story continues and follows the family when they leave Siberia when the Poles were liberated. The hardship do not end, they get worse! Hunger, disease, abominable living conditions, freezing and dangerously hot temperatures. You name it, they went through it. When Germany later invaded Russia, it was decided that the Polish men could better help by fighting against the Germans. This meant that the rest of the family had to flee Russia alone. They went via Uzbekistan, Iran and then Tanzania.

The novel is told with respective chapters being narrated by different members of the family - the father, the mother, the older son Henryck, who is twelve at the beginning, and his older sister Helcia. She is fifteen. There is an even younger son who is only four. He does not narrate any of the chapters. The purpose of having the four different narrators is tthat through them the author could describe the plight of various Poles - the wives, the small children, the young boys who trained in military camps and girls. You learn about the plight of these respective groups, but the book does not bring you close to any of the characters as individuals.

At the end of the book it is stated that the author based it on the experiences of her father and his family. I am not sure, but it seems that Henryck could be the author's father. I would have preferred more clarity. It felt like a very interesting text book. Why do they sell it as historical fiction? It doesn't feel ike historical fiction at all.

Furthermore, the author is a poet. Each chapter is begun with poems. They did not speak to me. Maybe others who really enjoy poetry will appreciate them more than I did. On the other hand each chapter also began with wonderful portraits of family members at different moments off their trip. I wanted to know who made these pictures, and the only information given was that they were from "the collections of Henry, Jopeck, Stefan, Mucha and Helen Zasada". I am guessing that Henry is Henryk, but the other names I do not recognize. The drawings look like they are all done by the same person. I end up quite annoyed that this information is lacking. Why? Because I very much liked these drawings. Nevertheless, the poetry and the art don't really fit the factual content of the book...... It is like tha author is trying to make the book encompass everything - poetry , art, history, biography and fiction. It ends up a bit of a mish-mash.

There is a map, but it is practically unusable! There is a bibliography of the books used by the author. This is an informative book relating the history of the Poles during WW2. Did you know that many Poles were sent to settlement camps in South Africa? The forced travels of Poles ejected from their country during WW2 were horrendous. We are not talking about persecution of Jews. We are talking about people evicted from their land and who have been made stateless due to the pacts and agreements of those leaders deciding world history.