Students and fans gathered to hear Marsha
read from her novels. Making Bombs for Hitler is part of trilogy, brilliantly written since you don’t have to read them in any particular order. Each book follows the story of a Ukrainian child caught up in the events of World War II. Marsha was thrilled to be in Winnipeg, and she shared the story of how her first nomination ever was a MYRCA nomination for Hope’s War, which incidentally is the inspiration for her WWII trilogy. Manitoba clearly loved having her back, judging by the enthusiastic responses from the assembled crowd.
Making Bombs for Hitler is about Lida who was captured by the Nazis and sent to a work camp. There, she struggles to survive under horrific conditions. Although she is only 8, she lies about her age to appear older since she has heard from Luka that the Nazis shoot anyone who isn’t useful. Because her hands are very small, she is recruited first to do the mending, then to make bombs. This is a job the Nazis would only give to slave labourers since the bomb factories were a prime target of the Allies. Marsha’s biggest worry about this book was that her character was too young, but during her research, she discovered that children as young as 5 were found in the work camps. Sadly, Lida’s story really could have happened.
Lida’s friend Luka is the subject of the book Underground Soldier. Luka manages to escape the work camp by hiding in a train car full of the corpses of his friends who died in the camp. Luka decides to walk back to Kiev and attempt to find his father, his last remaining relative. Unfortunately the war is directly in his path and the walk to Kiev is far more distant than he could ever imagine. He meets up with the Ukrainian Insurgent Army and wants to join but cannot give up the journey to find his missing family. Will Luka ever realize that everything he loves is gone?
Stolen Child is the story of Lida’s younger sister Larisa, both abducted at the same time. Larisa doesn’t remember anything of her older life, except for hazy snippets of memories in different languages. When the children at school begin to tease her about being a Nazi, Larisa secretly believes they are right. Why can she speak German? Why can she speak Ukrainian and who are these people pretending to be her parents? Marsha told the crowd that this was her favorite book since she considers it the best written. She said that it has the shape of an onion; the reader slowly peels back the layers of Larisa’s memory to discover what really happened to her. The truth will shock you!
After the formal Award Ceremony, the atmosphere was electric as everyone lined up to have their books signed by Marsha. She was nice enough to bring 350 signed bookmarks to give to each one of the students who attended the ceremony! Although her books are about dark times, she is quickly becoming a guiding light of truth. Without books like hers, we would never know about some of the atrocities faced by the Ukrainian people in World War II.