In the Shadow of Wolves

Written by Alvydas Šlepikas
Review by Douglas Kemp

Eastern Prussia in the bitter winter of 1946. The Soviet Army is in occupation, keen to take their revenge upon the German people. Eva, a Berliner who came to live with her husband, has been forced from her home by the occupiers and is living in an adjacent woodshed, trying to find food and fuel for her family and sister-in-law. Her husband was called up to fight for the Wehrmacht, and his whereabouts, and indeed his existence, are unknown. It is a cruel, terrible life, trying to avoid starvation, to keep warm and protect herself and her daughters from the drunken sexual assaults of the Red Army soldiers, who were actively encouraged to torment the civilian population. The family is dispersed, and the story follows the travails of the children as they attempt to find safety and protection in that hostile anti-German environment. While the title of the book reflects the nature of many of the people that these vulnerable children looked to for assistance, it also pays homage to the name that these helpless children were called – Wolfskinder – who left Soviet-occupied East Prussia and headed for Lithuania to look for safety in their plight.

The narrative at times reads like a fairy-tale – a story horrific and founded upon true events, but showing the fantastical nature of the times, when survival itself was a terrible challenge. Not always an easy book to read, given the cruelty meted out to children, but it is a story that should be told and has been performed well by the author.