Stolen Girl by Marsha Forchuk Skrypuch is inspired by actual events of the Lebensborn program during World War II
Synopsis from Goodreads: 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.
Parental Discussion (CONTAINS SPOILERS!):
I really enjoy when I learn something new from reading a book. I thought I knew most of the horrifying things the Nazis did during WWII, but this book taught me of a new one the Lebensborn (Fount of Life) program. If you want to learn more, you can read about the program on Wikipedia here and here. Basically, the Nazis wanted to increase the Aryan race but thought women were not having babies fast enough. Therefore, they kidnapped blond and blue-eyed children from Poland, Ukraine, and Eastern Europe. The youngest of these were adopted into Nazi families. These children were told lies about their actual families and where they came from. This program was so successful that most children did not want to return to their birth parents after the war and stayed with their new German families.
This book is based on one of those children, a girl named Nadia. Nadia escapes the war and moves to Canada. She has to learn to eat new things, learn a new language, and integrate into a new school and make new friends. Throughout this process, Nadia has flashbacks of different families, one being a Nazi family. By the end of the book, she connects her memories and realizes she was taken from her home to live with a Nazi family. The Ukrainian cook, Marusia, realizes Nadia is Ukrainian because of songs and food that Nadia recognizes. When Marusia escapes, she takes Nadia with her to raise with her husband in Canada.
While I love the concept of the book, it was a little slow. I started to get frustrated with the flashbacks, instead of building anticipation. The book is targeted towards 8-12, but I recommend 8-10 as I am not sure my 12-year-old would have stuck with it as not much happens. It is an excellent book for children to learn specifics about the Nazi regime and how they affected the entire world. The author has many books targeted to this age range about World War II. I think it is a great mission of her’s.
There are many concepts to discuss with your child about this book:
– things that happen during war
– the importance of caring for refugees
– genocide, eugenics, or the terrible and false idea of a “master race”
I wanted to mainly focus on the character Marusia the cook, who took on Nadia and rescued her from the Nazi family. I find her the most interesting because she thought of Nadia first and herself second. I think our society tends to focus on the self as opposed to the other. We are taught to make sure our own needs (or our immediate family’s need) are met, and not to worry about the needs of others. The Catholic Church tells us it is our duty to, “look upon [our] neighbor (without any exception) as ‘another self,’ above all bearing in mind his life and the means necessary for living it with dignity” (1931). This is especially true for those in most need, “The duty of making oneself a neighbor to others and actively serving them becomes even more urgent when it involves the disadvantaged, in whatever area this may be” (1932).
As you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me.
While we should take care of our biological families, we are part of the human family, “In creating man and woman, God instituted the human family and endowed it with its fundamental constitution. Its members are persons equal in dignity. For the common good of its members and of society, the family necessarily has manifold responsibilities, rights, and duties.” (2203). Some of these “manifold responsibilities” are to care for, “the young, the old, the sick, the handicapped, and the poor” (2208).
We are called to think of others first, especially those in most need. I tend to think of all the great deeds I will do in the future when I have more time, therefore, no need to worry about it today. That is tomorrow’s goal. However, I am not sure the day will ever come for me to do great deeds. Instead, I can look around my narrow life and do little deeds every day for someone. Daily small deeds throughout my life will add up to have a more significant impact that one great deed in the future (that may never come to be).
St. Teresa of Avila says in The Interior Castle, “forget your own good for [the sake of other’s] no matter how much resistance your nature puts up; . . . when the occasion arises, strive to accept work yourself so as to relieve your neighbor of it” (pg. 102).
Ask your child, in what daily ways can they help someone? Have them focus on someone from their “human family” and not their biological family?