Like A River from Its Course

Written by Kelli Stuart
Review by John Kachuba

While the story of World War II’s Jewish Holocaust is well known, what still remains clouded in history is the enormous death toll and deprivation visited upon the peoples of Poland and Eastern Europe by both the Nazis and the Soviets. In this thoroughly researched novel, Stuart tells the heroic and heartbreaking stories of four people caught up in the Nazi occupation of Ukraine, beginning with the blitzkrieg of Kiev.

Ivan Kyrilovich, mistakenly taken for a Jew, is lined up to be shot, along with 34,000 men, women, and children at Babi Yar. He survives but suffers greatly from depression at a time when his family needs him most. Ivan’s daughter, Maria Ivanovna, is only fourteen when the Nazis scoop her up, along with her sister, and force her to Germany as slave labor in a munitions plant. At sixteen, Luda is raped by German soldiers and abandoned by her worthless father. She becomes pregnant with a child her countrymen consider an enemy. Worse, she later falls in love with a decent German soldier, putting herself at dangerous odds with her community. Frederick Hermann, a young German soldier, uses the power and brutality of the Nazi regime in an attempt to make himself more respected in the eyes of his high-ranking Nazi father, but begins to suffer twinges of conscience.

The novel is based on true stories Stuart gathered over fifteen years of research, including visiting Ukraine and talking with survivors of these horrific events. Her writing is evocative and beautiful, despite its grim content. And, in the end, the novel is about love, forgiveness, redemption, and hope. This is a highly recommended read, not be missed.