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My Sister's Mother: A Memoir of War, Exile, and Stalin's Siberia

Canadian Slavonic Papers cover image

Some of the most moving responses I received after publishing my book Exile and Identity: Polish Women in the Soviet Union during World War II, which focuses on civilian deportees from Eastern Poland to the USSR in 1939-41, came from daughters of women who had been deported. One such daughter, who was born in California after her mother's long journey from a Soviet settlement, through the Middle East, and ending in the US, thanked me for writing the book. "I never understood what was wrong with my mother, why she was so different," she said, "until I read your book." In conversation, she spoke of the great chasm she felt between herself and her mother, whose traumatic past she found a heavy yet inscrutable presence in her home. Her words came to mind as soon as I opened Donna Solecka Urbikas' memoir, My Sister's Mother: A Memoir of War, Exile and Stalin's Siberia. Urbikas is the daughter and sister of Polish exiles. Her father, Wawrzyniec Solecki, was captured and interned by the Soviets as a reserve army officer, while her mother, Janina, and sister Mira (age five at the time) were forcibly deported to the Urals region of Russia in 1940.


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