Making Bombs for Hitler begins in the aftermath of raids of Ukrainians kidnapped and transported to Nazi Germany as slave labour, known as Ostarbeiters. The main character Lida is separated from her sister Larissa and tries to survive the camp system with a keen intuition and quick wits, constantly in fear of what the fate or herself, her fellow children or her missing sister will be.
Lida is given quick wisdom in passing from a fellow slave labourer to ‘find a way to be useful, or they’ll kill you’. Lying about her young age and revealing a talent for embroidery taught by her mother (who was killed by the Nazis, while her father was killed by the Soviets) aids her in securing work in the laundry, avoiding the tragic fate of some of her companions who work in terrible conditions and regarded as sub-human. Her hard work ethic is noticed, and the few privileges it gains her shocks her German task masters as she selflessly shares them with her fellow slaves to help their deplorable conditions. As her reputation for quality and detail builds, Lida finds herself promoted to assembling weapons of destruction for the Nazis. This weighs heavily on her conscious, as she is haunted by the dilemma that her diligent work that keeps her useful (and therefore alive) contributes to stopping the people trying to liberate her.
I found this book to be quite enjoyable. While it boasts 170 pages, it is broken down into many digestible chapters and is written in a quick tempo that makes the book a surprisingly quick read. What is also refreshing is that the book does not go into too many details about World War 2, sparing the reader from all the names and places that could have turned the story into a boring history text. And while the book does bring into light the often overlooked plight of Ukrainians and even other nationalities (like the Poles or the Hungarians), one does not need to be too familiar with their back stories to understand their issues in this book.
Marsha Forchuk Skrypuch is the author of Dear Canada: Prisoners in the Promised Land: The Ukrainian Internment Diary of Anya Soloniuk, Spirit Lake, Quebec, 1914 and Stolen Child, which won the prestigious Crystal Kite Award and has been shortlisted for the Manitoba Young Readers’ Choice Award and the Saskatchewan Diamond Willow Award. She has also written several picture books and in 2008 received the Order of Princess Olha from Ukrainian President Victor Yuschenko for Enough, which depicted the great Ukrainian famine that claimed millions of lives in the 1930s. Marsha lives in Brantford, Ontario. Her website is at http://www.calla.com.
The book launches today Wednesday, March 7th, 2012: 7:30pm at UNF Community Centre – 145 Evans Ave, Etobicoke, Ontario. The author will give a brief talk, followed by Q&A. Books available for sale and autograph. Light refreshments.
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