In this episode I chat with the incredible Heather Morris about her second book, Cilka’s Journey. Launched in 2019 (yes – I’m catching up), Cilka’s Journey is the follow-up story to The Tattooist of Auschwitz which took the world by storm when it hit out shelves in 2018. The Tattooist of Auschwitz was the first book we did in The Grown-Up Girls Report podcast in 2020. You can listen to the episode here.
It was Lale Sokolov, the tattooist of Auschwitz’s description of Cilka as the bravest women he knew plus the hundreds of follow-up emails enquiring about Cilka that Heather received after writing The Tattooist that prompted her to write the book. So, she set about researching the life of this phenomenally courageous and brave girl so she could write a story based on her life.
Cilka Klein managed to survive just under 3 years in Auschwitz-Birkenau however when the camp is liberated by Soviet soldiers, she does not get her freedom instead she is sentenced to 15 years in Vorkuta, a Siberian labor camp, charged with having helped the Nazis. This is a story of survival, resilience, friendship and courage. Heather does not shy away from including the many horrors female prisoners experienced including sexual assault and rape. It is harrowing yet incredibly hopeful.
During my chat with Heather we talk about her relationship with Lale Sokolov, the gentleman who was the inspiration for The Tattoist of Auschwitz, her journey to uncover Cilka’s story, her decision not to back away from talking about sexual violence and why this book is so incredibly relevant for our COVID affected world.
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Since publishing Cilka’s Journey, Heather has also written Stories of Hope, the story behind her inspirational writing journey and the defining experiences of her life, including her profound friendship with Lale, and how she learned to really listen to the stories people told her – skills she believes we can all learn. And in recognition of the power of hope, Heather is extending an opportunity to others to share their stories of hope and join a global conversation. If you have a story that you would love to share, maybe even one that has remained untold for decades and generations, Heather would love to hear from you. You can find the details here.
Heather’s 4th book Three Sisters will be out in October 2021. It is the story of three sisters: Cibi, Magda and Livia who made a promise to their father – that they will stay together, no matter what. It follows their journey from the hell of Auschwitz, to a death march across war-torn Europe and eventually home to Slovakia, now under iron Communist rule. Determined to begin again, they then embark on a voyage of renewal, to the new Jewish homeland, Israel. Two of the sisters are in Israel today, surrounded by family and friends. You can pre-order the book here.